Mitchell: Preserving Obama legacy starts at home

SHARE Mitchell: Preserving Obama legacy starts at home

A rendering of a Michelle Obama mural on her South Side grade school. |

Follow @MaryMitchellCSTAn online campaign to raise $5,000 for an outdoor mural of Michelle Obama at the South Side elementary school she attended is getting off to a disappointing start.

Chris Devins, the well-known artist/urban planner who has put outdoor murals in several South Side neighborhoods, set up the site five days ago.

Devins is offering to match every $1 pledged by the community and to raise another $1 from local organizations to get the project done. That’s a two-for-one deal.

Yet only seven people had donated a total of $175 as of Monday afternoon.

“That’s just terrible. It just seemed like a great time to do it. Not to throw [Donald] Trump into it, but it felt sort of urgent now,” Devins said on Monday.

He has installed outdoor murals of A. Philip Randolph, Common, Lorraine Hansberry, Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong on buildings in South Side neighborhoods.


Follow @MaryMitchellCSTLaVonte Stewart, executive director of Lost Boyz Inc., a nonprofit youth development organization that includes a female softball team, suggested that Devins add the first lady’s image to the list.

“Chris and I actually talked about it a year ago. I reached out to him when I saw his work. With the first African-American first lady coming from our own neighborhood, we should take pride in the fact that she lived in South Shore,” Stewart said.

The first lady went to Bryn Mawr School, now known as Edward A. Bouchet Math and Science Academy at 7355 S. Jeffery Blvd.

“That should be an amazing point of pride,” Stewart said.

“These four years that girls have been with Lost Boyz, I’ve seen this whole other side. I can only imagine how empowering it would be for them to see her image on the school.”

Devins recently created and installed outdoor photomurals on the new Mariano’s grocery store in Bronzeville.

“In this current climate, there shouldn’t be any problem raising money to get this done — not with what we know,” Devins told me.

You know that’s right.

The disappointed masses must do more than march. They have to organize and build coalitions around common causes. And they have to dig into their own pockets to pay for those causes.

Because, frankly, protesters can scream until Jan. 20, when Donald Trump is sworn in, and that won’t change the outcome of the election.

The proposed installation of an outdoor mural of the outgoing first lady is a tangible thing that captures one important aspect of Barack Obama presidency: Michelle Obama’s extraordinary grace and dignity.

“It’s their legacy. If we don’t preserve it, it won’t be preserved,” said Devins.

The mural would also be a powerful visual for young black girls struggling with self-worth.

“It’s a wall that you have to look up to. The way Donald Trump talked about women — the negative things he said about them — it is especially important to let young ladies see a positive example,” Devins said.

“They can be reminded of just how much panache and style the Obamas carried themselves with while in the presidency compared to what is possibly coming.”

Obviously, a lot of policies and programs Obama established during his eight years in the White House will be wiped out under the Trump administration.

Realistically speaking, there is very little any of us can do about that.

But we can do our small part to support efforts like Devin’s to ensure that the Obamas’ legacy is not minimalized.

“This mural isn’t to say that she is famous. It is to celebrate the qualities of excellence and persistence that got her where she is. I think those are important qualities,” Devins said.

To support this project, go to

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