By Nick Stephens, communication intern in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion
It’s the idea that all members of our diverse community are seen and acknowledged. For people who have been historically made invisible in public spaces, representation can make them visible, highlight their contributions and shape how they are seen in our broader society.
It’s also an idea of the utmost importance to artist Mauricio Ramirez, who was able to bring it to life with his new mural at Marquette University.
The mural is titled “Our Roots Say That We’re Sisters,” a nod to the four BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) women that it depicts. It can be found on the north-facing façade of the Varsity Theatre / Holthusen Hall building in the Ray and Kay Eckstein Common area.
In the spirit of representation, Ramirez had some help from the Marquette community in creating the mural. On Tuesday, Oct. 27, students, faculty and staff gathered for a socially distant “Community Paint Day,” during which they were able to help Ramirez complete the design.
“The experience was awesome,” said Chelsea Hernandez, a first-year student in the College of Business Administration. “Everybody was super nice and Mauricio took the time to get to know everybody, which I appreciated.”
“Our Roots Say That We’re Sisters” was chosen as the mural theme through an online voting process and subsequent listening sessions. For Hernandez, it was important to be a part of the creative process.
“I voted for this mural, and I was excited to find out that I could paint it too,” Hernandez said. “As a woman of color, I was beyond excited to be a part of something that represents who I am.”
Yasmeen Atta, a senior in the College of Nursing, voiced a similar sentiment about the experience.
“I contributed to painting the portrait of Gadeer, whose identity as a Muslim, hijab-wearing, Palestinian woman—displayed on such a huge and prominent scale—makes me feel ‘seen’ on this campus in a way that I have never experienced,” Atta said. “I’m not sure if it was a coincidence that Mauricio directed me to this spot, but I’m so glad that he did.”
Community Paint Day served as a chance for the campus to get involved, but when finished, the mural will represent the importance of diversity for years to come.
“It’s about bringing our cultures together and celebrating the beauty of it,” Hernandez said. “And because Marquette is a predominantly white school, it represents diversity and inclusion and the fact that women of color can go to school and be successful too.”
“As a senior, I look back on my experience at Marquette and am blessed to have found sisters along the way who I care for deeply,” said Atta. “These sisters—my closest friends—are from cultures and faith backgrounds which differ from my own. Mauricio’s words describe these connections perfectly: our bonds come down to our roots.”
For Atta, the mural is a significant step for Marquette’s efforts toward diversity and inclusion, but it’s also a sign that there is much left to do.
“Marquette as an institution has made preliminary progress in fostering diversity and concrete acts of inclusion on this campus, but the work is far from over,” Atta said. “I am confident in the members of the Marquette community who take these concerns seriously and will not stand for the bare minimum in the university’s progress.”