Williamsburg kids are brushing up on their local history!
Teens pitched in to help paint a mural at MS 50 on July 21, adding color to a sprawling illustration that tells the story of the neighborhood’s south side — known as Los Sures — as told by its residents.
The youths were especially thrilled to see the “people’s history” splashed out on the Roebling Street wall at S. Second Street, because the narratives came directly from their own parents and grandparents, said an organizer.
“A lot of histories of their own families are being reflected on the walls — the young people are literally seeing themselves and their families being represented,” said Theresa Doherty of local arts group and community center El Puente. “It’s been very amazing for them.”
The school organized the two-story mural to celebrate its 100th birthday, and is creating it with the help of Los Muralistas de El Puente — a local artist collective that specializes in public works, Doherty said.
Kids from El Puente and the school gathered oral histories, stories, photos, and songs telling the history of Los Sures, and the designers turned them into the massive artwork.
The piece is strongly influenced by the area’s Latino heritage, but also includes images of European, African-American, Asian, and Native American figures from the area’s history — including the school’s namesake, abolitionist minister John D. Wells, and John Jea, one of the first freed slaves to write a personal account of slavery.
Other parts of the masterpiece include a man pushing a piragua cart, a newsboy hawking copies of the original Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and the members of MS 50’s new debate team.
In addition to the teens, many adult citizens stopped by to help color in the mural, Doherty said — including Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Williamsburg), a former MS 50 student, who brought cupcakes for the volunteers.
The painting is still in progress — the muralistas started working on it in early July, and hope to put the finishing touches on in time for the first day of school on Sept. 8, Doherty said.