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South Pasadena Students' Push For A Mural Recognizing Black Figures Delayed By City Council

South Pasadena Black Lives Matter Mural
A portion of the proposed mural.
(Courtesy Zach Brown )
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A group of high school students has spent close to two years working on getting a mural honoring Black figures in South Pasadena's Orange Grove Park. Their effort, however, has hit another roadblock.

On Wednesday, the South Pasadena City Council tabled the project until it can get a citywide public art policy in place. That could take at least a year, according to officials.

South Pasadena wants to ensure the approval process is "fair and equitable, said Deputy City Manager Dominica Megerdichian.

"This is just ensuring that we have a process of moving forward so that any requests that come forward in the future can also be processed in that same way," she said.

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South Pasadena High's Anti-Bias Club helped launch the mural project after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd.

Anti-Bias Club member Noah Kuhn, a senior, said he's "frustrated and upset" that the project likely won't be completed before he graduates in June.

L.A. artist Zach Brown's conception of the mural features numerous prominent Black Americans, including Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Sojourner Truth, Langston Hughes and many more.

One portion portrays the sun, a reminder that South Pasadena used to be a "sundown town" — meaning Blacks were not allowed on the streets after dark.

The students want to place the mural in Orange Grove Park to mark a particular chapter in the city's racist history. The park was once home to a public pool known as the Plunge. After being denied entry, Susan McClain, a Black girl, sued the city in 1955. The city claimed she was turned away because she didn't live in South Pasadena, and ultimately prevailed in court.

"We want the city to reflect on its history of racism, and we want the city to work together and unite to further anti-racism," Kuhn said.

The postponement of the mural project comes after the city council adopted a resolution condemning "past practices of institutionalized racism." The city's pledge calls for hiring diverse musicians to play at public parks, staff to attend diversity and equity training, and more.

While frustrated by the delay, Kuhn vowed to "see this project to completion."

The students are now looking for a private property owner who might be willing to host the mural.

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