The common refrain in STEM is “You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Now, Black and brown Philly youth will see themselves reflected prominently in a colorful mural on the side of Fairmount Park’s Smith Playground.
Mural Arts and Coded by Kids unveiled their 1Philadelphia mural yesterday, features people of color interacting with technology and surrounded by 1s and 0s to represent computer languages. The main figure of the mural is Mary Jackson, a mathematician who helped develop NASA’s space program amongst a team deemed to be “human computers.”
Created by artist Priscilla Bell with support from Mural Arts’ Women’s Reentry Program participants, the mural aims to inspire Philadelphians to go after career opportunities in technology and entrepreneurship.
The nonprofit Coded by Kids offers young people development, digital design, computer science, and tech startup-focused education. Its 1Philadelphia program launched in 2020 to address systemic barriers to tech success.
“1Philadelphia is a coalition working to make our city the capital of equitable tech and innovation, and to expand opportunities for underrepresented Philadelphians,” said Sylvester Mobley, founder and CEO of Coded by Kids, in a statement. “To do that, you have to meet kids where they are, which is why we’re excited to unveil this work at Smith Playground. I hope Priscilla Bell’s mural provides some inspiration to the young people who visit, and shows Philadelphia residents that a career in tech is within reach.”
Mural Arts, for its part, is the nation’s largest public arts program, bringing art to public spaces to address various social issues.
“Where Mural Arts uses art and mural-making, Coded by Kids provides young people with invaluable resources to push back against societal obstacles so they can grow and thrive,” Executive Director Jane Golden said.
The mural was funded by a grant from Bank of America as part of its investment with 1Philadelphia. Together, Bank of America, Comcast NBCUniversal and the Lenfest Foundation invested nearly $1 million in 2020 to launch the 1Philadelphia initiative. This funding aims to support 1Philadelphia’s work to create long-term solutions to digital inequity in Philadelphia.
Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.