by ALEXANDRA RETTER
In one letter, “You are worth more. You are beautiful. You are smart. You are kind. You are perfect. Queens and kings of the world, you are heard,” is proclaimed. In another, a series of hearts in different shades rests atop a red background. The letters, which spell out “Hear our voices,” make up a recently unveiled mural in Winona that was designed and painted by members of Our Voices, a local group for students who are Black and students of color.
Winona Senior High School (WSHS) freshman Maliyah Reed, who designed and painted the letter “H,” included rain falling down in a rainbow of colors in her work on the mural. “Everyone comes in different shapes, forms and colors, so I was like, it would be great, because black lives do matter, and we come in different shades of brown, so that just came to mind at the time,” Reed shared.
Cochrane-Fountain City High School senior Savannah Dubois designed and painted three women in different shades to recognize the various skin tones of women of color and used a bright color scheme with pink and yellow as she completed the letter “A.”
WSHS senior Ajsha Morgan, who designed and painted the letter “I,” created a queen with a crown and a galaxy in the background for her work on the mural. Her mom inspired her design, she said.
La Crescent High School senior Victoria Howell designed and painted a girl with flowers in her hair for the letter “R” in “our.”
The designs for other letters include a teal flower on a yellow background and part of the face of a person of color with the globe painted as their eye.
Reed said she hopes those who see the mural enjoy it and find meaning in it. “When I see it, I know the people who did it, and I know how they felt when they were doing it … It’s the start of everyone saying, “I did well, I achieved something, and what people thought I would be, I did something better than what people think I would,’” Reed stated.
Dubois shared that she wants those who view the mural to recognize that the lives of people of color have meaning and discrimination should not take place.
When Morgan sees the mural, she thinks about people coming together in agreement, she stated. She hopes those who view the mural do not feel threatened by Our Voices, she said. “People think we’re a threat, but we’re not … We’re actually just a bunch of kids just actually trying to get through the rest of the world,” Morgan noted.
Howell said she wants those who see the mural to gain a sense of the presence of Black history. “I probably just want people to see that our lives matter,” Howell said. “I like the idea that it’s colorful and … that it represents all colors.”
Members said they were grateful for the community members who attended the unveiling and showed their support for Our Voices.
“It actually meant a lot to me, because I didn’t know that many people support Our Voices,” Dubois noted. “And I was so surprised that all those people came, because, I don’t know, it just touches your heart when you see people support you.”
LaShara Morgan, a local parent who founded Our Voices, shared that members spent their weekends working on the mural, and she was very proud of them for creating the piece of art. She said she found the unveiling of the mural to be a positive emotional experience. She added that she was thankful for those who came to the unveiling. “I hope they [those who view the mural] enjoy seeing it, and they realize that this is a very colorful community, and there are others here, and they are more welcoming to these students,” Morgan noted.
She also stated that she is grateful Our Voices members had the opportunity to collaborate with Winona Creative Laureate Sarah Johnson on the mural, and she appreciates that a local family allowed the mural to be placed at their property.
Our Voices members are currently meeting downtown. They hope to hold an event for Black History Month next year.
Our Voices’ mural is located on Eighth and Franklin streets.