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Kids in Pontiac paint mural show struggles Black & brown communities face every day

Posted at 6:55 AM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 06:55:39-04

(WXYZ) — Part of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is acknowledging some of the struggles Black and brown communities face every day.

One group of kids in Pontiac are tackling those difficult topics through art, in hopes of changing hearts and minds.

For many years, Latin communities have been disenfranchised and discriminated against. These messages not only validate their struggle but acknowledge their ability to overcome.

"Me personally, growing up first-generation, I have always felt like I've been judged my whole life or been perceived a certain way,"Sunny Campverde said.

She said she often struggles with opening up. That changed when she joined in on the mural painting project over the summer.

"We have everybody who mostly signed their names of who helped," she said.

She built friendships with Jordenne James and other Black and brown Pontiac youth.

Together, they took a wall from an empty canvass to a thought-provoking work of art.

"There's like a flourishing environment with the activism signs bursting through the brick, so it's kind of like this is stepping into this is the world we are trying to create moving forward," James said.

Stroke by stroke, they painted a world that welcomes immigrants and values the lives of Black and trans people.

It also acknowledges Pontiac's history as a community once occupied by Indigenous People.

"We have to respect the fact that we are on native land and this land is stolen," Campverde said.

Sarah Acosta, a mentor on the project, said Pontiac has a tricky history.

"It had a tricky history and a tricky current moment right now with being almost in the shadow of Detroit, but there's a vibrant community here that is passionate about so many issues," Acostsa said.

Through her work at Centro Multicultural La Familia, she helps survivors of violence find peace in the aftermath of abuse.

"I've been working in the anti-violence movement for many years and I think a lot gets lost in translation when it comes to helping survivors in our community kind of heal after experiencing trauma or abuse or just difficult situations," she said.

For children of immigrants especially, that trauma can often be an identity crisis.

First generations like Campverde want to live their traditions authentically but tend to feel disconnected.

"My mother left Ecuador when she was 8, so she didn't get to be raised as much as her siblings with the culture, and so I've always felt a lacking of my culture within me," she said.

Just across from the mural is an ancestral healing garden in the making.

Acosta hopes it will be a space to process disconnections from homelands and express multicultural stories through plants, recipes and memories.

"We are trying to weave back together that loss of our sense of selves which is really affecting the mental health of our youth and adults."