Notable Black figures from the USC community and symbols of Black excellence are the focus of a mural created by the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs, in partnership with LA Commons, University Communications and the Black History Month Legacy Project. The mural replica was unveiled Thursday at the Fisher Museum of Art and will be displayed in the CBCSA office.
The mural includes notable Black alumnus John Singleton, the first African American and youngest person to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, and John and Vada Somerville, the namesakes of Somerville Place, the Black student cultural floor in Fluor Tower.
The mural also depicts Durag Day, a national day of Black self-love and empowerment celebrated on college campuses and a 1970s Black student publication AllUsWe that depicts diverse stories.
Keviette Minor, one of the artists and student mentors for the mural project, said a town hall was held at CBCSA to discuss what symbols students wished to incorporate in the mural. Those chosen included West African Adinkra symbols that students used to represent unity, radiance and patience.
Students at the town hall also wished to commemorate Victor McElhaney, a USC student who was fatally shot last March.
“[He was] a student who was very amazing and even though I didn’t get to meet him, I saw his impact in the CBCSA but also in the Black community, so we had to have him on the mural as well,” CBCSA director Greedley Harris said.
Lead artist Amani Holbert, an art teacher at the Boys & Girls Club, applied to work on the mural initially because her interests aligned with its purpose to celebrate Black history with the surrounding South Central community.
“It really just encouraged me, seeing all the support from the students and that they really wanted to see something to represent them in the [CBCSA office] space,” Holbert said.
Local high school students, invited through the project, worked with Holbert and Minor on the mural.
Minor, a junior majoring in design, said students with an interest in art were encouraged to give back to the community through the project.
“It’s just another way to engage them artistically, while also involving them in the USC community and just kind of bridging the gap between the surrounding community of South Central and the USC community,” Minor said.
Harris said student engagement both within USC and the local community was important in the process of creating the mural.
“We wanted to be very student-centered, and we wanted to make sure the students were as much [a part] of [the] process,” Harris said. “It was very much a community effort both internally and externally, which is really cool [for] engagement and really cool for the history and for what the space is.”
Holbert said she was able to relate to the students’ experiences and enjoyed uplifting the voices of those who are a part of marginalized groups on campus.
“I had the chance to meet some of the students and it was really interesting to hear their perspectives on being Black students on campus,” Holbert said at the event. “Attending a predominantly white institution myself, I can relate to a lot of their experiences and their stories.”
Harris said that the mural was a way for Black Trojans to express themselves by documenting their history and celebrating Black History Month.
“I think it’s a big step of us recording who we are, and showing who we are … and just showing what being a Black Trojan is,” Harris said. “I want to highlight that, recognize that, celebrate that it’s Black History Month. It was very important for us to unveil it during this time period.”
Minor said she had wanted a mural for CBCSA since freshman year when she saw the murals at La CASA. She said it motivated her decision to be a part of the project and help bring the mural to life.
“It just means a lot to me that we’re finally being able to express ourselves in that way and see ourselves reflected in the space and on the walls,” Minor said.
Keviette Minor is an artist for the Daily Trojan.
Angela Cao, Twesha Dikshit and Mimi Geller contributed to this report.