Local artists paint mural to say education is “Not a Crime”

They weren't there in 1969 when Doris A. Derby, a documentary photographer, shot several stirring images at the education center of Tuft - Delta Health Clinic in Mound Bayou, Miss.

One of those images taken decades ago, however, is given new life as one of three murals at 395 Edgewood Ave. The murals tackle the topic of education - or the lack of access to education.

“Education is the one thing you carry with you wherever you go,” said Joe Dreher, also known as JoeKingATL, who was initially approached about the project. “It has the power to elevate us.”

He then brought in two other artists, Charmaine Minniefield and Fabian Williams. The murals are part of a global human rights campaign, "Not a Crime." The campaign, started by journalist Maziar Bahari, uses street art to push for education and human rights in Iran, particularly for those who practice the Baha'i faith.

The project began in September 2015 with 11 murals on education equality and freedom of expression painted around New York City.

Leading street artists from around the world, including the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Italy and South Africa have painted artworks designed to start conversations about human rights violations in Iran. More are planned for the United States.

In Atlanta, however, the mural has taken a decidedly Southern and civil rights twist. It’s near Auburn Avenue, once the heartbeat of the African-American community.

“Education in an innate human right,” said Charmaine Minnifield, one of the artists involved in the project. “I see a connection between human rights violations around the world and the pre-civil rights Jim Crow South. Those civil rights struggles are still happening. Mount Bayou, Miss. continues to resonate.”

The artists spent a week painting side by side along three connecting walls.

Dreher wanted his mural to focus on elevation. He used three women, from child, to teen to adult.

“When we are children we look up to the world. When a teen we become self aware and aware of the world looking back at us. It is the adults who are the pragmatists and oppressors but with education the youth are empowered and spread their wings.”

Fabian, a painter, performance artist and sculptor, said his vision went back to when he was in the third grade. His class was learning about George Washington, and Fabian asked why chopping down a cherry tree was such a moral issue taught over and over in schools but the fact the U.S. president once owned slaves was not.

“Stories like that were part of my upbringing,” recalled the North Carolina native. “I think we really need to have books that actually tell what happened in relationship to the African-American community and what our contributions were.”

His part of the mural, “The Paragraphalizer” from “The Contraption” series, contains attempts to show 400 years of African-American history in a page inserted in a U.S. history book. “I wanted to really address the lack of education in this country,” he said. “Really, the miseducation. I want people to be familiar with the true history of this country.”

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