On Saturday, April 27th, the Attallah College of Educational Studies hosted their 4th Annual Education and Ethnic Studies Summit. The theme of this year’s summit was “Ethnic Studies Community Movements: From Resistance to Policy.” As a part of the summit, the Leatherby Libraries hosted a reception celebrating the opening of an art exhibition by students from Santa Ana’s Valley High School, entitled “From Jim Crow to Our Altar Murals: Reflections of Our Past and Present, Building for Our Future.

Students in Benjamin Vázquez’ Valley High School Ethnic Studies class studied the school- to-prison pipeline as explained through The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander. To tell this narrative the youth created murals using wheat paste paper as the genre. The main mural is the timeline of racism that leads to mass incarceration of people of color. Three other murals tell the stories of young men killed by violent racist society brought upon us by this history. The students created “Altar Murals” to celebrate the lives of these young men. The works presented at Chapman University are duplicates of original art displayed in the halls of Valley HS. Both wheat paste and mural-making have been used by social justice movements to spread ideas to the masses.

At the reception, teacher Benjamin Vázquez spoke about his class and their process, from reading Michelle Alexander’s book to creating the murals. He was followed by three students, Joe Sanchez, Alexia Parra, and Ariana Alonso, who each spoke about their experience in the class. As Ariana said in her description of what she learned, “When we acknowledge each other, we create change. When we don’t acknowledge each other, things stay the same.”

A crowd stands in a narrow hallway, looking at art on the walls. A young woman and an older woman are in the foreground.

Student Ariana Alonso talks to Dean of Attallah College Margaret Grogan about the murals.

This exhibit will be on display in the Leatherby Libraries Hall of Art, on the first floor, through May 20th. Please stop by and take a look at what these fabulous students created!