Schenectady

Mural highlighting Capital Region youth of color begins Schenectady display

2017 Schenectady High School graduate Jessica Grant gets poetry reading started at Karen B. Johnson Central Library on Clinton Street in Schenectady on Saturday. Performances were part of an event to kick off the monthlong display of the mural behind Grant showcasing young Capital Region people of color's artistry at the library.
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2017 Schenectady High School graduate Jessica Grant gets poetry reading started at Karen B. Johnson Central Library on Clinton Street in Schenectady on Saturday. Performances were part of an event to kick off the monthlong display of the mural behind Grant showcasing young Capital Region people of color's artistry at the library.

One by one students from Schenectady High School and other community members stood in front of a 20 feet by 8 feet mural, which showcases the artistry of young people of color in the Capital Region.

The mural was on display at the Karen B. Johnson Central Library Saturday afternoon where people were participating in spoken word, poetry and musical performances. The mural was part of a “community public mural project” with a mission of elevating the voices of local artists of color, and was first been on display at various libraries in Albany, according to an event press release.

It features a young Black girl reading a book — the word “Create your own world” across its cover.
Schenectady High School 11th grader Marina Tchako helped paint the mural.

At first, she said she had no idea what she was getting herself into, but after seeing the mural for the first time since August she couldn’t be happier.

“People of color can make something beautiful,” Tchako said.

She said, to her, the mural shows that there is an extraordinary world out there for people of color to grab hold of.
Seeing the mural used as the backdrop of the event Saturday was also amazing, Tchako said.

“You’re seeing the different ways voices can be shown,” she said.

Vickram Nauth, 17, shared his through a monologue about the importance of someone’s name and being intentional to how theirs is properly pronounced.

“We deserve to have our names said, we deserve to have our names heard,” Nauth said during his performance. “Because our names are powerful. Our names define who we are. Our names make us unique and our names deserve to be said.”

In his monologue, he spoke about how many people he knew in the BIPOC community had their names mispronounced or they said their names were something else because it was easier for others to say, rather than speaking up so others would pronounce it correctly.

Another Schenectady High School student, Anayia Fernandez, 16, recited a poem about people’s perception of others.
“There’s so many problems in the world with injustice and I feel like it comes from perception,” she said.

In essence, she said it’s the idea of not judging a book by its cover.

“Dear world, I know what’s best for me, so don’t second guess my impact,” Fernandez recited.

She said the inspiration for the poem came about following conversations in class that surrounded the topic. On Saturday, she was excited to recite it in front of community members, but also to hear others speak.

“It feels so great to know that there are other minds that are alike,” she said. “I feel less alone.”

Cheering on the student was teacher Colleen Wygle, who said it was “pretty emotional” watching them overcome fears, talk on topics that mattered to them and express themselves.

Throughout the event, 2017 Schenectady High School graduate Jessica Grant kept audience members engaged and laughing as she broke up the performances by talking and making jokes about various topics. But, she continually came back to the same idea — just be yourself.

“I’m not afraid to embarrass myself,” she said. “We shouldn’t be afraid to exist.”

Grant said when she heard about this event she started to cry a bit. That’s because, she remembered how hard it was for her in high school, especially at a time when there was only one teacher of color. She’s glad to see that things are changing and that kids are opening up and speaking up.

“It makes me happy to see they’re taking the steps to express themselves,” she said.

The mural will be on display all month in the children’s room at the library. After that, it will be brought to Troy Public Library.

Categories: Schenectady County

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