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Drew Charter School unveils Black Lives Matter mural inspired by Emory exhibit

“Speak What Must Be Spoken,” an Emory Libraries traveling exhibit about Black art and activism, inspired a compelling Black Lives Matter street mural unveiled this month at Atlanta’s Drew Charter School. 

The Emory exhibit has been on display at Drew Charter since January 2020, serving as a catalyst for reflection and creativity, from the opening night event two years ago to the March 5 unveiling of the mural, which was designed and produced by Drew students, faculty, staff and local community members. 

Members of the Emory Libraries Campus & Community Relations and Rose Library teams were on hand for the festive unveiling ceremony, which was attended by several city and county commissioners, state representatives and Board of Education members and featured performances by the school’s dance, harp, band and chorus groups.

Clint Fluker, Emory’s Rose Library curator of African American Collections, represented Emory Libraries with remarks about the origins of the “Speak What Must be Spoken” traveling exhibit. Self-guided tours of the exhibit were offered throughout the event. 

The exhibit was curated by the late Pellom McDaniels III, former curator of Rose Library’s African American Collections, who passed away unexpectedly in April 2020, only three months after the opening of the exhibit at Drew. Barbara Coble, then with Emory’s Center for Civic and Community Engagement, initiated the connection with Drew, and created curricular material to be used with the exhibit.

The spark for this school-based initiative came from Emory Libraries’ “Still Raising Hell: The Art, Activism, and Archives of Camille Billops and James V. Hatch.” Held in Woodruff Library’s Schatten Gallery during the 2016-2017 academic year, that major exhibition showcased the collection of Billops and Hatch, a New York couple who spent more than 40 years creating and collecting African American art and art history and documenting the work of other writers, dancers and artists.

During its run, the exhibition asked viewers to consider how art in all its various forms, and particularly Black art, could effect change. Brainstorming about how to extend the library’s K-12 outreach, organizers created “Speak What Must Be Spoken,” a traveling exhibit that pulled materials from Billops-Hatch and other collections and posed that question to students.

Drew Charter School hosted the second iteration of the exhibit, which was first hosted by Martin Luther King Junior Middle School. 

The Emory Libraries Campus & Community Relations and Rose Library teams plan to take the exhibit to another school in the fall.

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