Oct 23, 2014

Celebrating Dr. Shawn L. White in Paint and Deed

by: Anonymous

On November 1st, we’ll be concluding this year’s Mural Arts Month with perhaps our biggest mural dedication of the season. ASpire is a mural and community outreach program inspired by and honoring the work of Shawn L. White, Ph.D.

White used his passion for music, love of education, and concern for his community to uplift youth throughout Philadelphia for over twenty years, teaching mostly young black men about making smart decisions regarding their health. White passed away in April 2013 at the age of 41, leaving behind two sons, Asa and Quadry White, to carry on his legacy.

As a teen, White worked as a peer educator to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. In 2009, the South Philadelphia native began leading the University of Pennsylvania’s barbershop health initiative, SHAPE UP: Barbers Building Better Brothers. The program brought health and wellness information directly to African-American men. It continues today without Penn affiliation in numerous shops throughout the city.

White was a close friend of Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, co-founder of the Grammy award–winning band The Roots and a current Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates board member. “Shawn and I went way back – we used to make music together and talked about our dreams to make it big. And even though we went into different fields, we both made our dreams come true,” says Trotter. “We wanted to keep his dream alive, and what better way than a mural in his neighborhood?”

The ASpire project includes a mural honoring White created by Ernel Martinez and members of Mural Arts’ Restorative Justice Program, but that’s not where the project ends. As part of ASpire and inspired by White’s work with SHAPE UP, we have also been holding workshops, community paint days and talks at barbershops in South Philadelphia. At these events, young Philadelphians have had the opportunity to meet inspiring members of their community and learn about issues such as personal health and conflict resolution.

The ASpire mural will be dedicated at noon on Saturday, November 8, at 2054 Ellsworth Street in South Philadelphia. We hope to see you there.

Photo by Tim Blackwell

Last updated: Feb 3, 2016

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