From left, PVMHS Culture Club Co-Chairs Carissa Furtado and Jada Martinez, Treasurer Aisha Nalugo and Secretary Tolulope Adeniyi next to the recently unveiled mural that was painted by the club after months of planning remotely. (JAKOB MENENDEZ)
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PEABODY — Cherry Blossoms paved the stairs leading to the upper hall of Peabody Veterans Memorial High School on Wednesday night when their cultural club unveiled their new racial justice mural, “Hope Springs from Groundbreaking Roots.”
Mayor Edward Bettencourt and school committee member Beverly Ann Griffin Dunne were among those seated in the crowd of about 18 as club co-presidents Jada Martinez and Carissa Furtado removed the decorative sheet obscuring the mural.
The mural, which the students spent more than two years painting, features a cherry tree with paper flowers attached to the branches and paper butterflies glued around the trunk. The roots of the tree, meant to symbolize the roots of the struggle for racial justice, are marked with the names of Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Malcom X and others.
Among the butterflies are the names of those who have lost their lives to injustice, and on the flowers are the names of those who inspire hope for future equality.
After the unveiling, the cultural club surprised Martinez with their own cherry blossom to stick on the mural.
“Personally, I feel like the biggest accomplishment for me was getting my flower, but also the reactions from people,” Martinez said. “Having such a supportive community of people learning and trying to figure out what it’s like to be part of a community. Especially with Black Lives, and what our culture and community means to us, I think the reaction we got here today was so heartwarming and uplifting.
Furtado said she was stressed about finishing the mural and excited to see the two-year project successfully completed.
“While doing the mural, I thought ‘oh my God, we’re never going to finish it’, because it was such a daunting task, but to have it finished and to be here, makes me really happy and really excited for students to see it,” Furtado said.
Club co-counsellor Mary Henry said she was proud of the students and that their passion for racial equality sends a strong and hopeful message to the community.
“I feel like it couldn’t have gone better if we had tried. I think the community sees what these kids represent and it’s powerful, it’s beautiful, it’s hopeful and it’s strong,” Henry said. “The fact that they were able to come up with this concept from scratch, and that it was student-led, is just amazing and something that we will remember for the rest of our lives. ”
Anthony Cammalleri can be contacted at [email protected]