Crusader staff report
There’s Barack and Michelle. Lorraine Hansberry and Emmett Till are there. So is the front page of the Chicago Crusader.
On a sunny September Saturday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicated a jaw-dropping mosaic mural. Alderman Willie Cochran (20th) and area residents beamed with pride over the elaborate 4,000 square foot masterpiece at 65th and Dorchester that features some of Woodlawn’s most prominent residents and locations.It’s the latest project by the Green Star Movement, a non-profit organization that has created 100 murals at schools, parks and public spaces throughout Chicago.
The group’s newest creation is designed under a viaduct on the Metra Electric train line. From June to August, some 500 volunteers from across Chicago spent countless hours using thousands of colorful tiles to create lifelike images of prominent people and places in East and West Woodlawn.
One nine-foot image is that of Minnie Riperton, the late singer who is best known for her glass-breaking high octave. There is a large image of the Ferris wheel at the 1893 World’s Fair, which was held in Jackson Park in East Woodlawn. Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle are featured on the east end of the mural. Obama, who appears taller than his wife (he’s actually shorter) is wearing a tuxedo and Michelle is rocking a ruby red evening gown. Michelle and her family were once residents of the Parkway Gardens Homes, in Woodlawn, before they lived in the White House.
The mural also features tiles that have photographic images. One shows boxer Muhammad Ali at the famous but closed Coulon’s Gym on 63rd street. Another shows Emmett Till, the 14-year old who lived on St. Lawrence in Woodlawn before he was killed by two white men in Money, Mississippi in 1955. There is also a front-page photo of the Chicago Crusader that memorializes Obama’s reelection to a second term as the nation’s first Black president.
The mural is one of several in the area. Another one with images of Jackson Park is across the street. Several blocks south are two similar murals that celebrate Woodlawn’s history and culture.
Volunteers worked on the project eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. This past Saturday they were praised for completing the latest mural so quickly. The mural was finished in two months. Cochran noted, “Over the last two years we have done several beautification projects across the ward totaling $150,000.” He said funds for the projects came from a City of Chicago outdoor arts program, and an infrastructure improvement program.
“This is just fabulous,” Cochran said. “I thank all the artists who put this together.”
The mural amazed Crusader Publisher Dorothy R. Leavell.
“I can’t even imagine how you got the design,” Leavell said. “I want you to know how grateful we are to you for acknowledging the Crusader’s importance in the community.”