by Susan Fried
On the afternoon of Feb. 26, as unpredictable weather loomed overhead, the students in Franklin High School’s (FHS) Art of Resistance & Resilience Club hung their latest project outside, a group of handmade signs celebrating Black lives and social justice. They attached the project to the fence next to the school’s mural honoring the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panthers, which was vandalized late last year.
Back in November, someone stole a Black Lives Matter banner hanging on the fence that separates the Franklin track and football field from Rainier Avenue, next to the Black Panther mural. Then a month later, Lauren Holloway, the original staff advisor for the Art Club, noticed that the mural honoring the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panthers had been vandalized. Someone had gouged a hole in almost every face depicted in the mural. Mx. Holloway enlisted some artist friends to repair the mural and contacted the students and new teaching artists in the Art of Resistance & Resilience Club about how they would respond to the theft of the BLM sign and the vandalism.
The Art of Resistance & Resilience Club had been planning to install some hand painted banners about climate justice on the school fence, but once they learned what had happened to the Black Panther mural, they postponed their climate justice project. Instead, they worked on signs and banners that Mx. Holloway said were an opportunity to “reclaim the space of the BLM banner while reaffirming Black lives.”
Kema Jones one of the current teaching artist co-advisers to the club, said the students decided what their message would be based on what was done to the Black Panther mural. Chosen by the students, Jones and co-adviser Mari Shibuya are supported by a Seattle Office of Arts and Culture grant which is helping to pay for their positions as FHS teaching artists for the next two school years. Jones told the students the best response to the vandalism was to make more art. “So we created more art. … That became the theme.”
The students adapted to the remote learning requirements of COVID-19, picking up the supplies they needed at the school, working on the collaborative public art project from the safety of their own homes, and occasionally holding Zoom meetings until their project was ready to be hung on Feb. 26. “This is what we are,” Jones said. “Resistance is Love, Power to the People, the messages of Fred Hampton, all of it.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article attributed two quotes to Mari Shibuya that should have been attributed to Kema Jones. The Emerald apologizes for this mistake.
Susan Fried has been a Seattle-based photojournalist for more than two decades.
Featured Image: Franklin High School Art of Resistance & Resilience Club members Jaylin, 18, and Jommel, 16, attach one of the signs the club created to the fence that separates the school’s football field from Rainier Avenue. (Photo: Susan Fried)
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