Mural Arts Philadelphia unveiled a new mural, “Breaking Chains,” in West Philadelphia on Saturday.
The huge artwork features African-American leaders such as Malcolm X, Guion Bluford, Madame CJ Walker, Harriet Tubman, Paul Robeson and Marcus Garvey, along with local youth.
“I love West Philly, we got our start in West Philly when we were the Anti-Graffiti Network,” said Jane Golden, founder and executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
Located at 500 S. 52nd St., the mural replaces a previous mural done by KC White. His work was damaged in the restoration of the building.
“The original mural was so important to the neighborhood because it celebrated Black empowerment and had important figures from Black history, that the Spak Group, when they were doing work on the building, said that this mural could not go away permanently,” Golden said.
The Spak Group is a Philadelphia based real estate and development company.
“Not every developer does that,” Golden said.
The new mural, which depicts important African-American historic figures, was recreated in collaboration with the original artist White and muralist Gabe Tiberino.
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell said Tiberino and the Mural Arts Program inspire young people to learn their history.
“I am glad to see that the theme of learning and teaching will continue,” she said.
The new mural is one of thousands seen across the city. Golden said about 4,000 works of public art have been erected in Philadelphia since 1984.
“The murals in this city are truly an autobiography of the City of Philadelphia,” she said. “I like galleries, I like museums, but I don’t think art should reside behind those walls exclusively. It’s a matter of equity for us. The City of Philadelphia deserves beauty and that is non-negotiable.”
U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans was in attendance for the mural’s ribbon cutting.
“No one does anything by themselves, we all do it as a team and that’s extremely important,” he said. “You as a community, first and foremost, are the most important part of this process.”
Others attending the ribbon cutting were state Reps. Vanessa L. Brown, James Roebuck and Greg Cojulun of the Friends of Malcolm X Park.
After the ceremony, residents walked across the street for food and activities as part of the Community Give Back Day hosted by Dynamite Pest Control.
“This mural sends a message,” Evans said. “I’ve always said that you have to change the environment to change behavior and what is taking place here is a changing of the environment.”