This summer, a team of young men of color created a mural encouraging and inspiring their peers to know their value and know their rights. With an approach centered on personal narratives and storytelling, the team challenged notions of identity to break cycles of inequity facing young men of color today. Their mural, entitled The Fall of Oppression, depicts young men of color impacted by internalized injustice as they realize their potential as empowered community leaders.
The youth mural team worked as part of the young men's leadership development program, Making History, a part of the two-month-long flagship summer youth employment program, the Summer Leadership Institute. In lessons facilitated by Lead Artist Raul Ayala and Assistant Artist Ashton Agbomenou, the young artists researched, designed, and fabricated the mural. This mural is the second Groundswell work featured at this location, the Bushwick Food Bazaar supermarket. The Fall of Oppression echoes the project created by last summers all-male team, entitled I Just Want to Come Home, addressing the complex relationship between police and young men of color.
Inspired by Diego Riveras mural, Man at the Crossroads, and its visual use of narrative, the artist team structured The Fall of Oppression in a two-part arc of transformation. On the left, the design confronts the drain of injustice on society. Figures in dull earth-tones have their faces covered with box-like masks, representing conformity and anonymity. These boxes are attached to oil pipes that metaphorically drain the natural resource of young men of colors imagination from the community. At the center of the design, a young man of color has removed the box-like mask. He stands in the realization of his own power. A winged skull hangs over him, representing life and the wisdom of ancestors. To his right, a community gathers to support one another's liberation. Box-like masks are replaced with images of traditional African masks to show the strength of connecting with ones heritage. A trio of figures holds a lantern emblazed with the slogan "Justice for all."
"I had a huge change in mindset this summer," said youth artist Kamal James (20). "Working with my peers/brothers this summer has been an invaluable experience. I learned to appreciate the difference I have with others and channel a better vibe into my daily activities. Painting The Fall of Oppression helped me redirect my emotions of being a man of color into something more powerful and beautiful. Thanks to Groundswell, specifically the teaching artists Ral and Ashton, I've learned to be more tolerant of others and uncomfortable situations. I carry a lighter bag now.