The people behind Philadelphia's Mural Arts program

- The Mural Arts program of Philadelphia is very well known for beautifying the city but another associated program is also committed to improving the lives of the participants. 

Before learning about the Mural Arts Guild Program Marvel Thornton Cruz told Bill Anderson that “I didn’t have nobody in my corner.  So I turned to the streets because I didn’t have anybody after my Mom died.”

He lost his mother at a young age and says he had no other real support system.  Life on the streets led to time in jail, a story that Khalil Reid was also familiar with he pointed out that “My PO told me this is your last straw you gotta rock it out. I stayed with it, I kept doing it and kept doing it. Now I actually walk around with a paint brush.” 

The Mural Arts Guild program teaches skills and provides jobs to ex offenders and youth on probation. Monday as Mayor Kenney came to see the program Bill Anderson stuck around after to really hear the participant’s stories.  Khalil said “I’m 25 years old I’ve been on probation ever since I was fifteen” and 21 year old Marvel’s struggles were intense after being released from prison.  “It was really kind of hard for me coming home to a child, coming home with nowhere to live no clothes nothing.”

After years in jail, few real friends or family and some bad choices they didn’t know what was next but through various paths they ended up in the guild program.

Dawan Williams the Program Director acknowledged the challenges these and other young men face but believes that programs like the Guild are essential.   “I don’t wanna see these guys in a casket or with an orange jumpsuit on.  We wanna see all of our people serving as positive members of our community.”   “They might not have any experience with getting up in the morning on time, arriving to work on time, general everyday accountability and responsibility after you leave us you’re able to hold a full time job or just life skills anywhere.”

The program trains them in painting and light construction, pays a stipend and most important gives them a chance to be a positive part of the community.  Something that Khalil clearly values.   “I was out there getting high or committing crimes or littering, when we come back out there we’re picking all that stuff up.  We’re bringing the community back again.”

And while they regain community trust, Marvel said they also learn something about themselves.  “It just opened my eyes that somebody cared for me and gave me the opportunity to know that I can do right.”

You’ve seen their work and now the back story of a group of people making good on another chance and a program providing it, For Goodness Sake.

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