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Godwin Heights "Girls for Change" create diversity mural with BLM artist

Girls for Change mural
Posted at 6:31 AM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 06:32:12-04

GODWIN HEIGHTS, Mich. — At Godwin Heights Middle School, 7 girls are part of a group called "Girls for Change."

7th Grader at the school, Arianna Mckuhen tells us, "Girls for Change means to me like, girls can change the world! Girls can do anything a guy can do."

These empowered girls meet once a week to learn about social issues.

In 2020 some of the students took their education to the streets, attending Black Lives Matter protests and community clean ups in Downtown Grand Rapids.

While some of the girls were helping to clean up in May, their principal Bradley Tarrance noticed an artist on the street corner painting an exhilarating mural.

The name of that artist is Jamari Taylor, and together they hatched a plan to bring students' summer experience on the streets, to winter work in the hallways.

"So we linked her up with our girls for change group," explains principal Tarrance.
"Then we just started brainstorming... how can we tie art into history? Into writing, into reading, all of these pieces... Then the girls came up with the idea of the mural."

The girls have been enamored with the process of creating a mural in their middle school hallways depicting diversity.

6th grader, Amahria Dillard tell us, "I've always wanted to be an artist, and I've always wanted to paint like her (Jamari)."

It took Jamari six weeks to teach the girls how to paint like her, and more importantly how to paint the women they look up to.

Their teacher and the artist Jamari Taylor says; "So students, during the brainstorming process, they kind of pitched their idea of different things they wanted the community to be aware of."

She continues; "Right now, a lot of the Black Lives Matter Movement is going on, and one student wanted to talk a little bit about immigration, while one student wanted to support the LGBTQ community. So then we all just did a little bit of research, to find those women who are out here and empowering the community, and and that's how we chose the faces."

The faces featured on the mural at Godwin Heights include Alicia Garza, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Marielena Hincapie, an immigration lawyer from Colombia.

There's also Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Marsha P. Johnson, all diverse, powerful women.

Diverse women, for a school full of diverse kids.

About 60% of students at Godwin Heights Middle School are Hispanic, 30% African American, and the rest a mixture of white and refugees.

"We need more pictures like this in schools and the community because it makes them just feel appreciated here. Nobody's gonna judge me or anything. So it feels like a safe place to a lot of people," says Amahria.

Physically seeing diversity in their own hallways is creating a sense of pride at Godwin Heights Middle School.

So Jamari and the girls encourage you to really think about this project.

How can you demonstrate the strengths of diversity in your community too?

Jamari leaves us with this, "It's very, very empowering. It really pushes me to do more. I'm hoping that this will inspire other schools to maybe be considerate of ‘Okay, what are other ways that we can help students here?’."

Principal Tarrance beams with pride and concludes, "Our future's bright, our future is darn bright with these girls in charge of it!"