Groundswell Community Mural Project ©

Acrylic on Wall
12 x 85 Ft

Lead Artist: Duane Smith
Assistant Artist: Sehu Amennun
Youth Artists: Tevon Alston, Karel Bussey, Eugene Harry, Quatasia Joyner, Rameil McCord, Devin McCray, Kareem Miller, Shakeira Nash, Richard Ortiz, Vreelyn Patterson, Yasnay Smith, Antoine Stokes, Alivia Traynum, Alex Vasquez, Yasmin Watkins, Peter Williams, Shanay Youmans

Location: Kingsborough Houses/ Bergen Street & Rochester Ave., Brooklyn, NY
Community Partners: Weeksville Heritage Center, Brooklyn Museum, New York Housing Authority, Independence Community Foundation.

Image of girl with pigtails and coin is courtesy of Weeksville Heritage Center's archive. The young women shown is Shanon Elizabeth Welch.


The story of Weeksville is represented in this mural through examining the past, present and the future of this historic area. The story of Weeksville as a free black community, literally a town officially founded by James Weeks and six other men (aka the Weeksville 7), is where the story of this mural begins.


These 7 founders are represented by the pointing figures throughout the painting. Although existing during both the pre as well as post-slavery era, the town represents a key period in American history whose legacy is currently being expanded by the research efforts of the Weeksville Heritage Center. The original composition is framed by images from photos of two girls, each who had a hand in finding important artifacts around the archeological dig in the 1970’s of the historic Hunterfly Houses, which now bear the name of the road that once served as the main throughway leading out to Canarsie from what is now the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn.

One figure is shown holding up a boot from the 19th century upon which the artists have superimposed a dated image of the area‘s map. Another girl holds a minted coin from the era. Rev. Henry Highland Garnet (located in the center of the mural), was publisher of the Freedman’s Torchlight, which besides being an abolitionist newspaper, taught blacks to read. Dr. Susan McKinney, the 5th black female physician in the nation and the 1st in the state, is also depicted in the mural.

The mural is painted on the back of a free standing wall, on one side of which is a one-dimensional, flat sculptural frieze created in 1936 by Richmond Barthè, a Harlem Renaissance artist, who originally intended it for the Harlem River Houses. As a point of emphasis on the value of the past in relationship to the present and the future, Barthe’s frieze depicts on its left hand side a cast of African characters leaving Egypt under the direction of Moses. An unintended outcome of the project was the amount of interest the mural generated in the Barthes frieze and in particular its restoration, as it is currently in a state of disrepair.

The symbolic references to the future in the mural also include an architectural design intended as an expansion of the Weeksville Heritage Center into a larger facility accommodating an arts center. This mural was the first of four projects with the Weeksville community.