‘Canes in the Capital

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University of Miami

January 17, 2018

The First Black Graduates Project has since grown, both in membership and mission. The Memorial Building tribute wall is, as Mincey-Mills calls it, the “next branch in the tree,” and the group’s visit to the NMAAHC was for inspiration on how it can blossom—particularly in the imagination of three-time UM alumnus and renowned Cuban-American artist Xavier Cortada.

Cortada, whose public art installments often focus on social justice and the environment, has contributed numerous works across the Coral Gables campus, including the vivid “Flight of the Ibis” tapestry in the Shalala Student Center. He will be creating a mural on the tribute wall that is both beautiful and provocative enough to prompt passersby into the kinds of conversations that need to happen on a university campus.

“We need to celebrate the successes [of the first black graduates] and honor the shoulders on which we all now stand—but also acknowledge the problem that we as humans have not been able to get rid of,” Cortada told the group at a planning session in D.C. prior to the museum tour. “We’re creating a platform for all these interactions to take place, to have honest conversations about race in society today and what it means.”

To do that, Cortada said, the mural must encourage its viewers to recognize that reality encompasses multiple perspectives.

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