Administration unveils new mural aimed at promoting inclusivity and safety

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Earlier today, the Townsend Harris administration and members of the organization genEquality unveiled a new mural on the wall alongside the entrance of the school building. The mural, created by artist Anthony Posada in tandem with volunteering Harrisites, is part of the school and genEquality’s larger pledge to encourage inclusivity and safety for all genders and races.

“[The mural] spoke to who we are,” said Assistant Principal Veronica York. “We are Townsend:  sixty five percent identify as Female, over fifty percent [are] first generation, fifty-two percent are economically disadvantaged, one third qualifies for public assistance, we speak over forty different languages at home. We all deserve to be seen.” 

Ms. York also thanked student volunteers, art teacher Margherita Wischerth, and genEquality. This project kicked off genEquality’s “Inclusive Safety Mural Series,” which aims to foster greater activism towards issues related to identity and gender harassment through art. At the unveiling, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic joined in and shared remarks. 

Sherry Hakimi, Executive Director and Founder of genEquality, said, “We felt compelled to create a program that leveraged creativity and community to change our culture towards that of Inclusive Safety – a culture in which you feel safe no matter what you look like, where you’re from, and who you love – and that’s how the Inclusive Safety Mural Series was born.

Sophia Lajaunie, Director of the Safety Inclusion Mural Series, said, “We think it’s really powerful that this mural was designed and painted in collaboration with Townsend students and a local Queens artist. We hope it inspires students and community members to know that everyone has the power and responsibility to make a difference, and to create safe, inclusive communities for all.

Several THHS students took part in painting the mural as well. Junior Samuel Tsai said, “I helped fill in the border of the mural, as well as make the outlines more defined and clear.” He described it as “…a cool experience, as [he] has never painted on a wall before, and it was fun to contribute small parts to a bigger picture.”

Freshman Maya Murdakhayev, who also was part of the painting team, added her thoughts on the overall message of the mural. She said “I think the mural has a very impactful idea of respecting others regardless of who they are or how they identify”.

“Inclusion is the only way forward. This mural tells all students: We see you. We celebrate you. You belong here,” Ms. York said at the ceremony.

Additional reporting by Alaniss Garcia Flores

Photos courtesy of Ms. York and Alaniss Garcia Flores