By: Deja Senna-Leslie

Photos By: Deja Senna-Leslie


It was a lovely, breezy Sunday afternoon when I took a quick stroll through some unfamiliar streets in Harlem.

I noticed a pattern of murals and graffiti consuming the buildings like decorative tattoos. It can be a magical experience to be exposed to so much visual arts outside. But one specifically caught my eye, not only because of it’s image but the message it is getting across.

Walking down 126th, I stumbled upon the first portion of the mural titled “Education is Your Shield and Trophy” painted by Erik Burke. His section of the mural depicts a woman holding a child in her arms in different hues of blue. I’m assuming it is a mother and child relationship, considering the way she’s cradling the child.

There are flowers blossoming throughout the piece that contain these bright red and orange hues that create an interesting contrast between the blue background and blue figures. The dynamic of the contrast seems to emphasize how restricted children can be from education or have limitations when it comes to education.

The blue hues here really stress the gloomy feel associated with the relationship of education and how not all children have equal access to it. The vibrant flowers illuminate the piece, representing hope and possibly growth in the education system. When analyzing the mural, I wondered what the positioning of the two figures represented.

Thinking further on, I drew a connection between the word shield in the title and the mother holding the child.

Her locking arms around the child exemplifies her protection over her son and from the people who place these limitations and restrictions on him, a representation for all children that lack accessibility to education.

For a better understanding of the message and image, here’s some insight:

#EducationIsNotACrime is a movement raising awareness for people who are being prevented from receiving the opportunity of attending school and earning a degree, specifically people in Iran. In 1979, individuals started persecuting the Baha’is in the Islamic Revolution. They have been prohibited from teaching and studying at any Iranian Universities. Therefore, this movement is to help fight against these laws made in Iran.

As I move forward to the next portion of the mural, entitled “Let’s Get Some Ladies Up In Here,” made by Elle, there are two female figures in the foreground and huge vibrant colored shapes in the background. The women are purposely painted in various different shades to represent how critical it is to have diversity amongst the educational institutions.

It immediately captivated my attention with the use of vibrant colors, abstract shapes and, mostly, the different angles of women and how they’re being represented. From my perspective, it seems as though the random shapes represent how creative women are, how their ideas and thoughts can contribute to this society. The the odd shapes associated with bright colors also symbolize imagination and how it can expand while receiving a proper education.

These two murals connect to create a bigger picture, literally and figuratively, to produce a message that education should be accessible to everyone.

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