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Dorsey Park mural program makes finals

caines | 10/11/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Director Emily Gunther shows Overtown in a positive new light

When Emily Gunter, 64, first arrived in Miami in 2011, she says she asked people where games were held for the Negro League years ago and no one seemed to know. With that she began to do her own research and found that Overtowns Dorsey Park was the venue for those historical games. Working with her son, Kadir Nelson, an internationally-acclaimed fine arts illustrator, she got the idea for painting a mural. With Nelsons help, Gunther turned a group of eight young people from the Overtown community into an exuberant collection of 45 kids. And because of her dedication to building literacy through arts and culture, she is one of five finalists for the first Knight Arts Challenge Peoples Choice Awards. The winner will be announced on Dec. 3rd, but in order to take home the $20,000 first prize, fans will need to watch each nominees video [KnightArts.org/peopleschoice] and then text to support their favorite. As part of my work with both an afterschool and mural program, my role is to get kids to want to read more and to learn the benefits of doing research, Gunther said. When you know more you can do more. This is about transforming the Overtown community and empowering young minds. The city gave us all of Dorsey Park to use as our canvas and our kids are researching, drawing and painting the mural. Weve gathered about 33 individual paintings into about 15 panels [located along 1st Avenue and 17th Street]. They are phenomenal.

The importance of history

Its been a family affair for Gunther, who besides her son, Kadir, has had the help of one of her daughters, Saliha Nelson, who directed the summer intern program that focused on the mural project all under the Urgent, Inc. umbrella. Alexandri Douyon also assisted as artist-in-residence. Many of our kids dont know how Blacks and Cubans, dark Cubans to be exact, were not allowed to play in the major leagues and how they decided to form their own league, she said. They got so good that whites finally opened their doors to them. That decision to integrate major league baseball spilled into other parts of American society. The mural helps our kids to understand their history, their ancestors and to be proud of where they live and their roots. This is special to everyone in Overtown and people are invited to put their input on the walls so that they all have a sense of ownership. Not one piece of graffiti has been put on these walls or on the murals. People in Overtown tell me theyre proud to get a chance to tell a positive side of their history. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com