STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WTAJ) — Students at one Centre County school are embracing the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through their artistic expression.
“I would like to say that I’m surprised, but I’m not really. At Friends School, kids learn about Civil Rights from Pre-K all the way up to Middle school,” teacher Bailey Kellermann said.
It was around Martin Luther King Day last year when the idea was created by art teacher Bailey Kellermann.
“She just said ‘I have this idea, tell me what you think, this could be a terrible idea,” one student said.
The idea? A mural of Martin Luther King Jr., with a unique twist.
“I think we should have a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., in thumb prints,” 8th Grader Adelaide Eburne said.
“My class basically took that idea and we added the thumb prints around it, and we added the quotes.”
Each detail intricate, carefully crafted.
“We projected a picture of MLK’s mugshot on to the piece of paper, and using thumbprints we traced the outline,” Adelaide added.
But the class wanted the mural to represent more than just what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for.
“The white thumb prints are the 3,446 African-Americans who were lynched, the known ones between a certain amount of time.
“The red ones are the 223 people of color who were fatally shot by police.”
Names around King’s face on the mural represent victims of injustice and police violence.
11 students in total contributed their finger prints to the mural, and in their teacher’s eyes, the mural was her students taking a stand.
“I was just so proud watching them make it, and seeing them take everything that they know and believe about being good people on this Earth, and pouring it into this art project,” Kellermann said.
“All of the discussions we’ve had about power and privilege and leveraging our positions for the good of all people just coming together in that way, makes me so proud.”
Shortly after completion, the mural was displayed on the bulletin board in front of the school.
Looking back on it, students and kellermann say the work of art is powerful.
“I find it very sad, very scary actually,” 7th grader Issac Vanness replied.
“I like to think, or I should say other people like to think that it has ended, racism has ended, but it hasn’t, it’s still there.”
“The kind of starkness of it, the contrast, the presence of it is really stunning, and the meaning behind it too,” Adelaide added.
Because of the proximity of the Osaze Osagie shooting from the school, those who worked on the mural felt Osage’s name should be added to the mural.
“We thought about adding his name, but because his parents were local to State College at one time, we wanted to get their permission before adding it, out of respect to him and them and their past with this community, and unfortunately that did not happen before the deadline to getting it digitized.”Bailey Kellermann, Lead Teacher, State College Friends School
The mural has been named “until all of us are free” revealing an underlying message the class wants to get across.
“To us, if I can speak on the behalf of the middle school, it’s really what we believe in, we all have to work together until everyone of us is free, regardless of their race or their creed or their sexual orientation or their color of their skin or anything,” Kellermann added.
The mural will be displayed in various churches across the area of the next several weeks. Kellermann says they have another digital version that can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. if an organization wants to display it.