Artist Jannah Williams (center) stands with a group of teen leaders in front of the recently completed mural honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at The Warehouse in Wilmington. — WHYY Photo/Mark Eichmann

A black and white image of Martin Luther King along with three raised fists now adorns a wall at The Warehouse in northeast Wilmington. Dozens of students helped paint the mural inside the soon-to-open youth center.

“We’ve always thought about having a mural in the warehouse, so we felt like Martin Luther King Day was the perfect opportunity,” said Jahmere Hargraves, a student at Mount Pleasant High School. Teen volunteers took turns in groups of three adding color to the wall.

“I feel like that was a good way to engage the community because a lot of people, they love Martin Luther King, so that was a good way to connect them to the Warehouse,” Hargraves said.

The Warehouse is expected to open in February or March, offering young people in the community a place to have fun, learn and express themselves through art. The facility will also offer career support including resume help and interview skills training.

The building was once home to the all-boys charter school Prestige Academy, which closed its doors in 2017. Capital One Bank donated the building to REACH Riverside in 2018. The Warehouse is a part of the REACH Riverside Community Development Corporation’s efforts to improve this area of northeast Wilmington. The group also plans to build 600 units of mixed-income housing to improve the standard of living for residents in the Riverside community.

Zorah Rothwell is an 11th grader at Mount Pleasant High. Along with Hargraves, she’s part of a group of teen leaders that provided lots of input on the design and programming The Warehouse will offer. That input is helping develop the idea of “teen revolution,” she said. “The Warehouse is the evolution of teens and adults communicating, working together, because there is a disconnect in Wilmington between teens and adults, so bringing this space together is helping to connect that and really just trying to make Wilmington a better place.”

Artist Jannah Williams sketched out the main work on the mural to honor both the mission of The Warehouse and the legacy of Dr. King. “I love that he was all about making change, but doing it peacefully and he just wanted people to come together,” Williams said. “That’s what we did today, everybody came together and it was very peaceful, very calm, soothing, and everybody got it done.”

Following the mural painting in the morning, the students were transported to the Hedgeville neighborhood in the southwest part of Wilmington. From there, they planned to hold a peace march for several blocks to the Youth Empowerment Center for a community lunch and a discussion of Dr. King’s legacy with city and state leaders.

“Having opportunities like this for people to come out and help in the community I think is really important,” said Anaya Patterson, an 11th grader at Mount Pleasant High. “Martin Luther King did a lot of things in changing the scope of how people see African Americans, and doing little stuff like this can give the community hope, in hopes of changing and becoming a better city.”

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