How long is too long? Well according to supporters of a mural to be erected in the Kansas Capitol commemorating the 1954 Supreme Court Decision of Brown v the Topeka Board of Education, seven years is too long, and more than eight years is totally unacceptable.

It was 2006 when Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita), David Haley (D-KCK) and Anthony Hensley (D-Top) introduced a bill to have a mural constructed on the walls of the capitol commemorating what is recognized by legal scholars as one of the top five legal decisions that changed the fabric of our nation.

The bill (SB-54) passed unanimously in the Kansas Senate, and it passed with just three people in opposition in the Kansas House. However one of the requirements of the bill was that not a dollar of public money could be used to fund the project.

The Capitol Preservation Committee was tasked with overseeing the mural but, no one was put in charge of raising the needed funds.

Charles Jean-Baptiste, who at the time was president of the Kansas State Organization of NAACP Branches and the identified originator of the mural idea, formed a 501© 3 non-profit to help raise the funds, but their efforts have been slow going. In the last year or two, the Kansas African American Affairs Commission has gotten involved in raising money for the project.

The estimated cost for the project is $110,000. Kenya Cox, KAAAC’s executive director, estimates combined, the two groups have raised about two-thirds of the funds needed. Their new goal is to raise the balance of the funds and to have a ribbon cutting for the mural in February 2018.

That’s just months away, so the fundraising push is on.

In 2016, after reviewing the work of four finalists, the Capitol Preservation Committee chose artist Michael Young to create the mural. His simplistic drawing features a teacher reading to a diverse group of children, the U.S. Supreme Court building in the background and, it shows a lot of the early activism.

Cheryl Brown Henderson, the youngest daughter of Rev. Oliver Brown, a plaintiff in the historical civil rights case, approves of the artwork.

“When you think about the general public and you think about school children and you think about people visiting in any sort of historical place, some of them, yes, will stand there and read word after word, [but] they are rare,” said Brown Henderson in an interview for KMUW radio. “Most need to get the idea in just a matter of few seconds so this particular art work encapsulated that.”

With more than 70,000 visitors coming through the State Capitol each year, and 42,000 of them students, this mural provides a dual opportunity to commemorate and educate.

Young is already at work on the mural, and if the dollars are right, he will be ready for the install early next year.

If you want to help make the mural dream a reality, there are two ways you can donate. Money can be contributed to the Brown Mural Project SB-54. Check can be mailed to: Brown Mural Project, P.O. Box 3842, Shawnee, KS 6620 . Funds can also be donated via KAAAC. Contact the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, directly. Donations to both groups are tax deductible.

For more information about the project contact: Charles Jean-Baptiste at brownmp54@brownmuralproject54.org or call (913) 558-1338 or KAAAC at kaaac@ks.gov or (785) 296-4874.

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