By Brinda Fuller Willis, PhD
Jackson Advocate Contributing Writer
The Jackson State University Office of Community Engagement at the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) Civil Rights Education Center unveiled a magnificent outdoor mural on July 24, 2021, entitled “Chain Breakers,” which was envisioned and created by the celebrated artist Sabrina Howard.
The mural is located on the outside of the COFO Building at 1017 John R. Lynch Street. Henry Thompson, director of JSU Metro Jackson Community Prevention Coalition, presided over the 10:00 a.m. celebration; JSU president, Dr. Thomas K. Hudson, welcomed all guests; and Dr. Heather Denné, director of JSU Community Engagement, informed the audience of the occasion –The COFO Mural Celebration.
Angela Stewart, archivist for the Margaret Walker Center, gave remarks on behalf of the center. Artist Sabrina Howard told the audience how appreciative and humbled she was for being bestowed the opportunity to create a piece of art that pays homage to civil rights legends and pioneers of the West Jackson and Washington Addition neighborhoods that include Hemingway Circle and Pecan Tree Park.
Dr. Heather Denné informed the audience that funding for the mural was secured from the Mississippi Arts Commission and was a collaboration of communities that surround JSU. Denné said, “We started this journey about two years ago to create art in our communities. We always wanted murals because of the lack of art. JSU commissioned the artist Sabrina Howard.”
Other mural works of Howard include the Chambliss Shoe Hospital in the 900 block of John R. Lynch Street, and another called “Sowing the Seeds of Love” at the JSU/Blackburn Learning Garden near the JSU main campus just off the JSU Parkway facing Dalton Street.
The mural depicts headshot portraits of civil rights legends – living and deceased – who blazed a path for equality. Each person represented on the mural wall was eulogized by a family member, student, patron, and/or personal acquaintance. Rep. Alyce Clarke was the only living trailblazer/pioneer present and she thanked everyone involved in the construction and completion of the mural and being honored by the artist for sharing her talent and skill. The iconic figures featured on the mural are:
- Rep. Alyce G. Clarke, first African American female legislator in MS (Pecan Park Neighborhood)
- Fannie Lou Hamer, civil rights leader who organized MS Freedom Summer and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); remarks by Jacqueline Hamer Flakes (daughter of Fannie Lou Hamer)
- Bob Moses, civil rights leader and field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; remarks by Rosalyn Pendleton, Algebra Project alumni and JPS teacher
- Rose Elizabeth Howard Robinson, famed Lanier High School teacher (Hemingway Circle Neighborhood); remarks by Jason Robinson, grandson of Robinson
- Louise Marshall, first African American bookstore owner in the community (Washington Addition Neighborhood); remarks by a Washington Addition representative
- Albert Powell, first African American florist in the community (Washington Addition Neighborhood); remarks by Regina Orey, Powell’s niece
Additional remarks were given by Leslie Barker with the Mississippi Arts Commission that provided $8,000 in funding for the completion of the mural and Milton J. Chambliss, Claiborne County Economic Development District Executive Director/Port Director and descendent of the Chambliss Shoe Hospital family that once operated on Lynch Street.
For more information, call the COFO Community Education Center at 601-979-2255.
Brinda Fuller Willis, Ph.D. is a freelance writer for the Jackson Advocate Newspaper since 2001. She is an Independent Consultant, Advice Columnist, Keynote Speaker, ADA Specialist, Grant Writer and winner of the 2019 Mississippi Humanities Council’s Educator Award. (firstname.lastname@example.org/www.brindafullerwillis.com)