‘From the Darkness Shines a Light’

Philadelphia is known as the “City of Murals,” with over 4,000 works of community-based public art adorning outer brick walls of buildings in every neighborhood. The artworks are part of a “campaign by the city to repurpose public spaces and create positive dialogue in communities,” according to Mural Arts Philadelphia.

Yet since its inception in 1984, this government sponsored nonprofit, anti-graffiti program has never included a mural of Philadelphia’s most famous native son — no, not the fictitious Rocky Balboa — but real-life political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Artists and activists supporting Abu-Jamal took it into their own hands to do something about this in advance of his Dec. 16 court date. With his appeals trial entering a critical phase around the 41st anniversary of his incarceration, they felt it important to “humanize” Pennsylvania’s most famous political prisoner.

People’s mural of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Philadelphia, Dec. 14, 2022. (Photo: Sunny Singh)

Lead artist Makeba Rainey and support crew Sam Rodriguz and Boris Bernard wanted to create an image for #LoveNotPhear of Abu-Jamal before his incarceration. They chose an older, personal family photo of him, but they included a picture of him today on a postage stamp at the top, to depict how incarcerated people communicate with the outside world through mail. The mural carries the message “From the Darkness Shines a Light.”

The mural appears on an outside wall of One Art Community Center on N. 52nd St. in West Philadelphia. Organizers reported traffic coming to a halt as drivers slowed down to take cell phone pictures of this incredible political art.

Visit Sunny Singh’s video at youtu.be/byWSY7Mkr-c to witness the production.

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