“For centuries, artists have created work that explores, reflects on— and advocates for— social issues. Art offers powerful opportunities to express our common humanity, challenge assumptions, spark conversation, connect diverse people, inspire wonder, imagine new solutions, and promote action for positive change. Music, dance, the visual arts, film, theater, and writing can also inspire empathy, which is why they have always played a role in social justice movements; art shifts the way people think about the world. Especially for youth, doing art can be a powerful way to give voice to their passions.

— Jenny Friedman, Executive Director, Doing Good Together article entitled, “Use Art to Learn Empathy and Create Social Change



In the summer of 2020, Anne Marie Grill and Lilli LaBuen Gillen started a Petition to the UCI community and ICHA to allow a Black Lives Matter street mural to be painted on streets bordering the UCI campus and University Hills. The petition was signed by over 1200 UCI faculty, staff, students, and University Hills residents and garnered support from all parts of the UCI community, including members of the Community Safety and Diversity Working Group, Black Faculty and Staff Association and the Center for Black Cultures, Resources and Research, and members of the UCI End Racism Working Groups. 

In September of 2020, the Uhills Homeowner Representative Board (HRB) unanimously approved locating the project within the University Hills community. The Irvine Campus Housing Authority offered their endorsement and support. Artists were hired and a mockup of the mural was shared at the Community Safety and Diversity Working Group (CSD) Juneteenth event in 2021. Feedback of the project was received from the participants at the event and incorporated by the artists, Omar Martinez and James Brooks. The theme of the mural is a celebration of Black Lives Thriving and contributions made by trailblazing African-American people who broke barriers and changed history forever. 

This is an important opportunity for our University Hills community to come together and show support for our diversity and our commitment to social change. Our activism for diversity, inclusion, equity should not stop. 

Meet the Artists:

Omar Martinez

James Brooks


10 important figures and symbols in Black history: All represent black achievements in different areas.

Mansa Musa: African King: turned city of Timbuktu and other areas into sophisticated centers of learning in the 12th Century

Harriett Tubman: American Activist who escaped slavery and became the “conductor” of the Underground Railroad.

Bessie Coleman: 1st Black female pilot

Activist: No name…represents the hundreds of people who participated

Stevie Wonder: Overcame prejudice against disability

Marsha P. Johnson: Transgender LGBTQA+ activist

Mae Jemison, 1st female, black Astronaut

Congressman John Lewis: Good Trouble

BLM protestor under Covid…the struggle continues

Color of background represents the lives lost

Sound waves…ripple effect

Morning Glories: Blooms open up in daylight and close up in darkness. Represents the ups and downs of the black movement.

African Adrinka: Ghanian, the symbol represents hardiness, perseverance. In Akan culture, it is a symbol of someone who is strong and tough. It inspires the individual to persevere through hardship.