A New North Kansas City Mural Is Designed By A Student From Missouri's Most Diverse High School
More than 40 languages are spoken in North Kansas City. The new mural on the wall of an immigration law firm reflects the global perspectives of students at North Kansas City High.
Over the past few weeks a mural has taken shape in the back parking lot of a North Kansas City law firm. A dreamy woman with flowing, wavy hair stands out against a sea of brightly-colored flags of the world. Continents in black and white are filled in with translations of the words: equality, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Roger McCrummen is managing attorney for the McCrummen Immigration Law Group. Their one-story office on Swift Street started out as a grocery store. It now houses seven attorneys and 18 paralegals who practice exclusively in the area of U.S. immigration law. McCrummen wanted to find a way to decorate the back wall of their building and celebrate the diverse communities that call North Kansas City home.
“We’ve got this great, huge canvas in the back of out building, this brick wall, and I’ve thought for quite some time that it would be a great place for a mural,” McCrummen says.
This spring, McCrummen held a mural design contest open to students from North Kansas City High School. The high school, nicknamed "Northtown,” was recently named the most diverse high school in Missouri. He offered two scholarships for first and second place winners.
“North Kansas City has some 40 different first languages.” says McCrummen. “You know, there’s a lot of Somalis here and Fillipinos and Vietnamese in the Northland. It’s just a real wide diversity.”
Abiagael Parks’ design was selected from among 50 mural designs created by her fellow high school students. At 17, Parks has just finished her junior year. She says students of Northtown pride themselves on the diversity of the student population.
“Going to Northtown, one of my favorite things has been able to just walk down the hallway and hear tons of different languages and conversations going on at the same time,” Abiagael says. “So I wanted to somehow capture, not only the diversity, but also the languages and the cultures of each, like the flags and the languages.”
Abiagael says sharing a classroom with students from around the globe is inspiring to her.
“It’s really diversifying your life and connecting with people,” says Abiagael. “A lot of times we sort of have that barrier between different cultures and different languages. Being able to cross over that barrier in such a communal way it’s incredible. Learning about where all these people come from and their families and how they do things. It gives you insight into your own traditions and cultures and it allows you to take pride in yourself and where you come from.”
The firm hired experienced mural artist Chico Sierra to execute Abiagael’s design on the building’s wall. He added a few of his own touches to help the mural flow across the entire wall. He also worked hard to get the language translations right.
“We tried to stick with the languages that are common here in North Kansas City and there’s a lot,” says Sierra. “Google translate’s a little iffy sometimes so I’ve had to check with some of my friends and confirm with them to make sure I am getting the right thing in. Luckily I have some friends in South Korea.”
McCrummen says the plan was to get the mural started over spring break so students could help out, but that plan was scuttled with all the COVID-19 shutdowns.
“It’s kind of unfortunate that the pandemic hit when it did because the plan was that the students could come out and observe Chico coming out and put it together and even help him,” says McCrummen.
Abiagael says the biggest thrill is seeing her artwork in a public space.
“I am very excited that I actually get to see my artwork on a wall,” says Abiagael. “That’s just the biggest thing for me. I used to pass by this on my route to school every day and knowing that what used to be a blank wall now has my art on it. It’s just crazy.”
Abiagael’s father Brian Parks works for the Kansas City Missouri Fire Department. He say he enjoyed watching the progress of her design and he’s proud of how his daughter sees the world.
“Our generation must have done something right because kids don’t see the differences,” says Brian. “They see humans which is the way it should be. They just find the common cause and they go with it and it’s very encouraging to see.”
McCrummen says the response from the community has been positive.
“We posted on the North Kansas City Neighbors Facebook page and it’s already had over 200 likes and a lot of really great comments,” says McCrummen. “There’s like 20 or 30 comments and they all talk about how it really captures the spirit of North Kansas City.”
McCrummen says commissioning this mural has been a positive tribute to diversity and it carries a message that will last for years to come.
“We’re going to be constantly pushing for immigrant rights and I look forward to the day when we have a more favorable atmosphere for immigrants in the country,” says McCrummen. “They contribute immensely to our nation, so we’re trying to do what we can.”