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On the Ground: Parkside's 'North Star' mural finally gets its due with official dedication

North Star in Parkside

More than two years after its completion, a mural that community members spent fifteen years planning will finally be officially dedicated. The event is coming up on April 30, presented in partnership with Flying Kite’s On the Ground program, the East Parkside Residents Association and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, which landed in Parkside last year.
Callalily Cousar, a longtime Parkside resident and founding board member of the East Parkside Residents Association, is proud of the mural. "North Star: The Journey to Freedom," by Delia King, was completed at 1100 N. 41st Street in fall 2014.

"It means unity and community," she says. "We’re hoping for it to be a legacy for our children." 
According to the Mural Arts, which helped create the piece, it "references African-American quilts, which would often hold directions for those escaping slavery on how to reach the free states and Canada." It’s not surprising that the North Star was a common visual theme in these quilts.
"It was part of our history," says Cousar of the design. "Every star was supposed to be the guiding star for freedom…It’s supposed to be a light."
"We’re proud of it on that wall," she continues, emphasizing that the mural’s installation was a collaborative neighborhood effort. "I personally worked on some of the stars…It was a community thing that brought a lot of joy."
A playground at the 41st and Poplar site was an early goal of the Residents Association and it took a dozen years to achieve after the group coalesced in 1993. Local kids didn’t have anywhere to play and used to run in the streets. Original board members Harvin Thurman, Ronald Coleman, Bertha Cranshall, Ben and Kathleen Gambrell, Naomi Smith, Dorothy Crawford, Dorothy Wilkins and Dorothy Ferguson -- many of whom had lived in the neighborhood for forty years or more -- were champions of the project. Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell also supported the project, both physically and financially.
"We’re proud of it. It’s a small thing to some people," says Cousar, "but it’s an important accomplishment to the Parkside neighbors."
The history the mural honors is crucial, too.
"It’s something that we wanted our children to know," she says, adding that the dedication will feature speakers, food, family activities and African drumming.

The event will take place by the mural on Saturday, April 30, from noon - 2 p.m.
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Callalily Cousar, East Parkside Residents Association
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