Mural Project Complete in Norwich; EL Waits on Location


Sister mural project looks to connect history and present within neighboring communities


In the past few years, as racial equity has become increasingly prominent, many organizations such as the Public Art for Racial Justice Education (PARJE) have come together to educate others on racial history.

In December, members of PARJE started a sister project with EL and Norwich: murals to honor different civil rights activists in both towns. One ELHS volunteer, senior Allie Martin, helped make the Norwich mural relate back to its town’s history.

NHS members Allie Martin and Bayla McCaffrey paint a rose for the Norwich mural as volunteer work (PHOTO:NHS).

“We were given the opportunity to volunteer through the National Honor Society… They showed us their outline of the design and gave us the rose (Norwich symbol) to paint and we worked together on the flower,” Martin said.

The organizers took to incorporating prominent activists into the mural.

One such activist, David Ruggles, was born in Lyme, educated in Norwich, and became the first African-American bookseller in the United States. He was also a notable member of the Underground Railroad and transported many people to freedom. It connects both East Lyme and Norwich.

“I believe he is something of a cultural hero in parts of our state. I hope with this project and others like it awareness about his life and important work in the region grows,” EL mural organizer Jason Deeble said.

“Our original goal was to try to paint both the East Lyme and Norwich sister murals together in June. East Lyme did not have a wall identified or approved so that held up the process,” the Norwich branch NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and PARJE president Shiela Hayes said.

Members of PARJE also believe that making and establishing these murals could be the start of a bigger change.

“This one mural will generate some conversations. It’s not going to fix that tremendous historical inequity, but it can start a conversation that can lead to meaningful change,” Mr. Deeble said.

The monumental start of PARJE and these bigger art projects came at a time when the world was in lockdown.

“People were stuck inside their houses because of the pandemic, unable to do anything and make meaningful change. In that situation some of the people of PARJE started public art projects,” Mr. Deeble said.

Volunteers also believe that this mural will serve as a way to educate people on racial justice.

“[The goal] is to open the eyes of students and any community members because it will allow [them] to look at another aspect of racial justice education that people wouldn’t normally go out of their way to research,” Martin said.

Similar to the Norwich mural, the East Lyme mural hopes to be constructed using the theme of important civil rights activists in the late spring.

The current idea is painting a David Ruggles bookstore where elementary school kids could fill it up with books of their choice.

The mural in Norwich has been constructed with the hopes of making residents of color feel accepted in their towns.

“Personally, similar to any project that I work on, I hope that it leaves and instills a sense of identification for anyone who grew up here or anyone who chooses to live and work in the city of Norwich that they can look at this mural and find a piece of history,” Ms. Hayes said.

Overall, organizers and volunteers alike hope that these murals in Norwich and EL bring connection between people and start conversations.