A new mural to honor hometown hip-hop group The Roots debuted in South Philadelphia Friday.
Iconic images of Philadelphia natives Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter now grace a wall of the World Communications Charter School on South Broad Street.
Speaking at the mural’s dedication, Mayor Michael Nutter emphasized the value of arts education.
“Think about two guys from South Philly,” he said of Thompson and Trotter.
“You never know what our young people can do unless we invest in them, unless we support them, unless we encourage them,” the mayor continued, “and that’s certainly something that we’re going through right now.”
Nutter’s comments come during a moment of crisis for city schools.
Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission this week approved a $2.4 billion budget that includes massive cutbacks of for arts and music programs.
The city’s Mural Arts Program, which organized the new mural, works with 2,000 students each year in its after-school initiative.
In addition to the painting, Mural Arts designed and implemented a curriculum it called “Roots 101” to teach art and writing activities to youth.
Arts education is key to social change, says Jane Golden, executive director of Mural Arts.
“We’re thrilled we’re in a city with thousands of murals, but what thrills us even more is the process,” said Golden. “This is about transformation of individual and community.”
Participants from a local prison program worked alongside artists to create the piece as part of the city’s Mural Arts Program.
Thompson called the mural opening one of the “greatest moments” of the band’s career.
“Philadelphia, all we wanted to do was to make you proud of us,” he said.
The drummer joked that he had waited long enough to see this day.
“I’ve forever driven the streets of Philadelphia wondering, like, ‘When are we getting our mural?'”