In celebration of Black History Month, the Rutgers-Newark community gathered at Paul Robeson Campus Center’s Student Street for the unveiling of a new mural created by artist and Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) alumnus, Andrea Cassar. The mural commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Conklin Hall Takeover and other key moments and people in Rutgers-Newark history that celebrates its diversity.
In bold white and red letters, the aesthetically designed statement, “They Had A Dream… Rutgers Is Part of It,” blends seamlessly among historical images and scenes, which include the Conklin Liberators. Located near Starbucks and the game room, the mural is visible to all and will serve as a constant reminder of how the determination and courage of others can make a positive impact for the future.
“As a graduate of Rutgers-Newark, I [wanted] to showcase a mural of how being a part of Rutgers-Newark has allowed me to have a better understanding of diversity, and how we the people of this great nation shape our own future through unity and not segregation,” said the Italian-born artist. Cassar graduated from RU-N in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.
Individuals displayed on the mural, each of whom has an indelible legacy at Rutgers long beyond death, include: Paul Robeson, world-renowned activist, actor, and alumnus of Rutgers University-New Brunswick; Clement A. Price, professor and founding director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience at RU-N, renamed in his honor; and Jan Ellen Lewis, professor and dean of the School of Arts and Sciences-Newark who recently passed away in August 2018. Poster boards that contained information about the individuals featured in the mural lined the wall of Student Street during the unveiling on Monday, February 18.
“This mural is really for us to be able to recognize a lot of the people who have created the Rutgers we know today,” said Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Corlisse Thomas. “This is our way to celebrate them.”
RU-N senior Jacqueline Williams attended the unveiling at the suggestion of a professor. For Williams, the mural made a meaningful impression because it gave her the history and background of the campus.
“Rutgers is just so open and diverse, which is one of the main reasons why I came here to pursue a degree” said Williams. “I think it's good for all students to be enlightened about the history of our school.”
The mural contains several images from the Conklin Hall Takeover. Fifty years ago, members of RU-N’s Black Organization of Students organized the Conklin Hall Takeover to protest the university’s perceived discriminatory and racially exclusive practices. Frustrated with the administration’s lack of efforts to comply with their demands, the “Conklin Liberators” piled into Conklin Hall and barricaded the doors until the administration met their requests for racial parity.
“Without the liberation hall, black students would not be able to attend Rutgers-Newark,” said Ashley Altidort, president of the Haitian Association of Students at Rutgers. “The perseverance of the change makers broke those barriers that were set upon us. That makes it worth acknowledging.”
Other events scheduled this month to honor the Conklin Hall Takeover include the Black Organization of Students Alumni Association panel discussion on Thursday, February 21, and a celebration gala on Friday, February 22, at 15 Washington Street in Newark.
For more information about these events, click here.
To learn more about the Conklin Hall Takeover, click here.
To see the photo gallery from the mural unveiling, click here.