- Faith & Family
A vibrant mural was recently unveiled on the front wall of the TACOLCY Center [6161 NW 9th Avenue] by their Youth Advisory Council [YAC], including scenes illustrating how they view their community. The theme of the mural is “What Community Means To Me.” And in a more somber display, the youth also dedicated a memorial portrait honoring one of their friends, 18-year-old Muquelle Whisby, who was shot and killed last year at the hands of a neighbor.
“This mural is uplifting and we want it encourage others to help make and keep this a safe place for our children,” said TACOLCY CEO Alison Austin. “Young people bring power; we don’t need people from the outside to tell us who we are, and this [mural] will speak for us.”
In January, (YAC) partnered with Kyle Holbrook who works with the MLK Mural Project. The goal was to develop a vision and then to make a statement, capturing their voices without having to speak.
“I have to give thanks to everyone who assisted me with this project,” Holbrook said. “I could not have done this by myself. Everyone did a great job.”
Nine YAC members presented to the public their individual paintings and the reasoning behind the art work. Youth artists included: Javaris Benson; Lashaevia Burns; Stephanie Collie; Steffon Dixon; Christian Harris; Kendricka King; Zaquan Roundtree; Michael Spears; and Terry Thomas.
“What I depicted in my piece is within [two] folds, one is women being degraded and the other is showing the strength of women carrying the world,” Spears said. “I think to change the community it starts within the home with the parent. You can form children into whatever you want, but don’t neglect them because it can cost them their future.”
Whisby, who lost his life due to gun violence, was represented by his mother.
“This is very uplifting,” said Kierra Whisby. “Muquelle may be gone but he is not forgotten. The bullying within the community needs to stop, and it starts with us.”
The mural also addressed stereotypes often associated with children from Liberty City.
“We can do whatever we set our minds to and we believe we can change how others perceive us,” said Burns, a Jackson Senior High student. “I want to show that you can attend [college] and be successful.” Dixon, a DASH student, says he intends on making his dreams come true.
“This is a place of opportunity but you have to take advantage of it,” he said. “I want to be an example of someone who succeeds. I refuse to use my environment as an excuse.” —firstname.lastname@example.org
By Eric Ikpe
Miami Times writer