Recording Our Own Thriving Stories:
EPA ROOTS Mural
Lead Artist: Sami See
Lead Youth Artists: Jailah Mitchell, Melanie Resendiz, Katerine Hernandez, Nayeli Hernandez, Lorena Brito and Jahkim Hendrix
Mural Assistants: Maya Fuji, Malaya Tuyay, Teresa Benson, Noelle Guarin, Reynaldo T. Novicio Jr, Diego Irrizary, Dominic Cheng, Andre Larrick, and Thavin Rajanakhan
Operations Director: Jewel Buchanan-Boone
Dimensions: 100’ x 13’
Location: East Palo Alto, CA
This mural was painted by Jailah Mitchell, Melanie Resendiz, Katerine Hernandez, Nayeli Hernandez, Lorena Brito and Jahkim Hendrix, led by muralist Sami See.In Fall 2019, these 6 youth artists gathered with muralist Sami See to reflect on their own personal stories and experiences growing up in East Palo Alto, California.
Questions posed in the design workshops were:
What supports you, your family and community to thrive?
What depends on you to thrive?
From the workshops led by Sami See, they created original designs that celebrate their personal perspectives of their past, present, and future that are unique and powerful. Uplifting their voices and allowing them to write and share their own thriving stories is a critical act of reclamation an allowing young people to shape the way that their art and perspectives impacts their community.
You can listen to the audio archive which includes stories of the artists, as well as other community members who reflect on their experiences, histories, and community in East Palo Alto. This is a living archive where continued storytelling is welcomed and celebrated.
Scroll down for photos of the final mural and process shots including the youth design workshops and to read the mural narrative.
What lies beneath the surface of a mural? When viewers gaze at a beautiful static image, a whole world awakens. Murals transport us to a place of curiosity and awe, inspiration, imagination, and wonder. In our hyper-connected world, a single story can shift an entire worldview and countless lives can be changed by bearing witness.
East Palo Alto has a remarkable hxstory, filled with resistance, resilience, and diverse communities coming together to form social movements. EPA’s present is equally remarkable. Acknowledging the mounting pressures of displacement and affordability on the community, the stories of EPA told by longtime residents are as valuable and important as ever. Learning each other’s stories creates opportunities for communities to foster solidarity, allowing them to collectively thrive. Thus, the ROOTS acronym stands for “Recording Our Own Thriving Stories”, a testimony celebrating the voices of East Palo Alto.
This Mural was created by six East Palo Alto youth artists who explored their own hxstory. The group asked themselves what they depended on to thrive in their personal lives and in their community.
Imagery inside the letters shows themes of music and style, cultural harmony, education and knowledge, community support and understanding, as well as intergenerational resilience — all elements of EPA’s “ROOTS.”
In the “R” you’ll see and hear music representing East Palo Alto’s sway and style. The first “O” features three braids, representing Latinx, Polynesian, and African-American cultures harmoniously intertwined within the EPA community. The second “O” includes titles of books selected by youth artists that have inspired and inform how they see the world. One of the largest books on the shelf is The Story of EPA which is being written by these artists and in the community each day. The “T” shows many hands reaching out to offer support to a person in need and a young leader in the top, achieving their goals step-by-step. And within the “S” sit three generations of resilience, from the ancestors who built the foundation of the community, to the descendants who are committed to seeing it thrive.
This interactive mural invites you to listen directly to the voices of the youth artists and community members who contributed their stories, hxstories, and visions to this project. Scan the codes below to listen to the stories honored within this creative experience.
*All paint in this mural is environmentally-friendly, non-toxic, and VOC-free. The yellow paint within the letters of “ROOTS” absorbs carbon dioxide, just like the trees throughout the community. By minimizing the ecological impact of the mural, we hope to honor our connection to the earth and the land upon which we are grateful to be able to create.