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Arts & Life is an important part of WXXI and CITY's reporting. From harnessing the knowledge of writers Jeff Spevak, Daniel J. Kushner, Rebecca Rafferty, Brenda Tremblay, Julia Figueras and Mona Seghatoleslami, to our television products that focus on lifestyles and the arts, WXXI is the place to turn for arts and life news.

Efforts are underway to create mural of Constance Mitchell at East High School

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Chris Christopher
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Malcolm X and Connie Mitchell 1965

Efforts are underway to create a mural of two icons — Constance Mitchell, the first Black woman voted to office in Monroe County and civil rights leader Malcolm X. 

Artist Ephraim Gebre will paint the mural. The Rochester native, now a Brooklyn resident, is the lead artist behind the “I am Speaking” mural featuring John Lewis in downtown Rochester.

The image of Malcolm X and Mitchell was taken during his visit to Rochester in February 1965, less than a week before his assassination. The anniversary of Malcolm X’s death and his Rochester visit inspired a Twitter conversation that led to the idea that the image should be made into a mural at East High School.

A very small team of people, including Rochester photographer Quajay Donnel, journalist Erica Bryant, and East High School principal Shawn Nelms, came together with Gebre to get the project started.

Gebre is currently working with Nelms to find potential walls at East High School for the mural. He said he’s being selective because wants to ensure the image will last for years to come.

“At the end of the day it’s an asset. It’s a high quality museum quality oil painting that if everything is done the right way from the beginning it should be there for maybe 100 years,” said Gebre.

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Credit Max Schulte
Ephraim Gebre

The mural will be Gebre’s second in Rochester in less than a year. He expects to begin the project in late August once a wall is selected.

Gebre said his Rochester projects are personal endeavors and he’s humbled by the opportunity. 

“I’m humbled that the Rochester community and so many OG’s (term used to describe people who are authentic and ‘old-school’) and really influential people you know, the Julius Jacksons, the Ian Wilsons and Shawn Dunswoodys and all those kinds of people like that are in my corner and are watching me,” said Gebre.

A fundraiser is also underway to help pay for the project, which is expected to cost about $20,000.