A portrait of Leeds Uni Alumni and Founder of Free Black University has been painted on the storefront of Co-op Leeds University Franchise Store, to celebrate the contribution and achievements of Black community leaders who have helped to shape society across the UK
Food retailer the Co-op has unveiled a huge hand-painted, external mural in Leeds, celebrating Melz Owusu, Founder of the Free Black University, to reflect the retailers’ commitment to supporting and championing black individuals and communities throughout the year.
Co-op worked with Leeds University Union’s Political Engagement Team (LUU) to choose Melz Owusu to be depicted in the mural, as part of its series of murals which will champion an inspirational figure who have made an impact on the lives of those living in their local area.
Natasha Fowler-Ekar, Equality and Liberation Officer at Leeds University Union, said: “Last month we launched our Liberate LUU campaign, which is all about embedding Liberation in all that we do at LUU. The mural is a physical example of our commitment to living Liberation, which students, university staff and colleagues will be able to view every day.”
Melz is an activist, scholar and spiritualist and former sabbatical officer at LUU. They are the Founder of the Free Black University and a PhD researcher at the University of Cambridge, campaigning in support of Black Lives Matter UK, decolonising education and trans visibility with hundreds of audiences across the world and has also tackled the topic on the popular TEDx platform.
On their image being chosen for the mural, they said: “I feel very blessed to be chosen by the students at Leeds for this mural. I hope that it reminds everyone that no matter where you come from, or who you are you have the capacity to make change that impacts so many. Even in the times you may think your efforts are not being felt; this mural is a testament to the ways that your legacy can still live on in the hearts of many, as well as within the memory of a space like the university.” They added, “I encourage everyone with just an idea about how they want to affect the communities that they live within to not be afraid, to put your head above the parapet, and you never know the impact that may be felt in years to come.”
The striking image which measures 4.88m high by 4.22m wide, will be on display on-campus outside the Co-op food franchise store, in the aim of inspiring both the staff and students on campus to continue positive discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion throughout the year.
Three hand-painted exterior murals have been created and will be on display in different cities of the UK, each representing a significant Black individual from each community. The first of which was unveiled in Walthamstow, London during Black History month, of local campaigner, historian and educator Peter Ashan.