First Black Lives Matter mural on a university campus comes to Miles College

The Bender Administration is bringing big changes to Miles Campus and beyond. Photo courtesy of Miles College SGA.

“To manifest change you have to first acknowledge that change is needed.” Miles College, the only Historical Black College or University (HBCU) in the Birmingham area will also be the only college to have a Black Lives Matter Mural on its campus. This monumental first is achieved in part through SGA President Jeanette Bender and her cabinet.

NOTE from Miles College: “The campus is currently closed to visitors due to Covid-19. We encourage anyone interested in seeing the artwork in person to refrain from visiting the campus until the school reopens in August.

The first of its kind at any Historical Black College or University

A rough sketch of the design for the mural. Photo via Fitz Hand Painted Signs on Facebook.

Miles College has always been a school on the forefront. That’s how Jeanette described her university as she explained the motivation felt by her cabinet and herself for the installation of the Black Lives Matter mural on campus.

“It’s our community. Our responsibility. Fairfield is not just a place where our school sits in the middle—it’s our home. We’re trying to uplift our community and show the city of Fairfield we stand behind them.”

Jeanette Bender, Miles College SGA President, rising senior majoring in biology and pre-med with a concentration in neuroscience (yeah, she’s amazing)

The mural will be completed through the collaboration of Miles College SGA and the Black Lives Matter Birmingham Chapter. Miles College received donations from The Rock City Church and the Black Lives Matter Birmingham Chapter to go toward the project.

“I think it will have a huge impact because the Black Lives Matter movement right now is so big. It’s not only Black people that are outraged by the deaths that have occurred—it’s everyone. We’re not saying all lives don’t matter, because they do, but Black lives are the ones that are in danger right now.

So for Black kids to come back to Miles College and see, ‘Hey we do matter to someone,’— it’s going to be a huge impact on the world, not just our campus.”

Jeanette Bender

“It’s a movement that’s going to be down in history.”

Other SGA presidents and chapters from various schools have reached out to Jeanette inspired, saying they want to do something similar on their own campuses.

The effort couldn’t be completed without Jeanette’s cabinet, who she thanked over and over for being a strong team that works with and supports her always, and through moments like these

“With my cabinet, our initial motto running for the presidency was ‘prepare for change.’ To manifest change you have to first acknowledge that change is needed.

It wouldn’t be okay if I just did it for now, we have to do it forever. We want everyone to know that Miles College is for change and it will pour into future generations.”

Jeanette Bender

Past and present meet on parallel streets

In part of her push toward change, Jeanette cited Frank Dukes—the president of Miles College’s SGA in the 1960s and an influential Civil Rights Movement Leader. He led the Anti-Injustice Committee and was a huge driving force behind desegregating white businesses in downtown Birmingham.

“I wanted to honor his memory in doing this, because he did it without doing any violence or destroying his community and I wanted to do the same.”

Jeanette Bender

Where Jeanette also feels a pull toward him, however, is how similar the two are not only in their actions and beliefs, but their timelines.

“When Frank Dukes was SGA president he was 30 years old and I’ll be 30 this year. For him to be in his presidency and his prime when the Civil Rights Movement was happening, and for me now to be turning 30 during my SGA presidency at Miles College during what we look at to be a modern-day Civil Rights Movement is just—I would’ve never thought this would be the position I’m in. Especially while we’re dealing with COVID-19. It’s a blessing and it’s an honor.”

Jeanette Bender

Shawn Fitzwater heads up the design

Fresh off the mural at Railroad Park, Eric Hall co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Birmingham chapter reached out to Shawn. Similar to the one in downtown Birmingham, this mural will also feature large block letters but include additional elements unique to Miles College.

“I’m real honored to be a part of this piece of history that’s happening in our city and along with other cities in the nation that are doing something similar.

We’re putting down this message that won’t be forgotten and standing our ground that we want change—it’s important and we need to recognize it’s important for those it affects most.”

Shawn Fitzwater, owner of Fitz Hand Painted Signs

Barring bad weather, the mural should be complete before Tuesday, June 30th, with a plan for alumni to return to campus and fill in the design.

The second Black Lives Matter mural in Birmingham

Black Lives Matter, a new street mural in front of Railroad Park. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

I’m not going to pretend anyone reading this doesn’t know about the giant Black Lives Matter Mural painted in just two days in front of Railroad Park. Shawn Fitzwater designed the mural and Cara McClure and Joseph Baker from I Believe in Birmingham prompted the project.

All three parties reached out to Mayor Woodfin and after approval, it was quickly completed just in time for Juneteenth will help from local artists and the community.

Murals continue to pop up in Birmingham

Mural honoring Breonna Taylor. Photo by Chaise Sanders for BhamNow

In addition to these two Black Lives Matter murals, local artists and social groups have been showing support for the community throughout the city. Shawn Fitzwater, John Lytle Wilson, Amanda Blake and Meghan McCollum worked together with other Birmingham artists to create collaborative street art across from the Pizitz.

Also, just taking a stroll downtown you’ll notice over 20 individual murals showcasing hope, solidarity and unity across local storefronts. We’ve included where to find them and photos.

Looking for more ways to support the Black community in Birmingham? Check out these articles + more on our website!

What do you think of the new mural? Give us a shout on social @bhamnow!