Feed Your Child the Truth

Title:  Feed Your Child the Truth

Site:  Ma Houston Park
50th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, Chicago

Artist:  Bernard Williams

Assistants:  Stephanie George and Julia Sowles

Community Participants:  Saeedah Abitalib, Omar Hooper, Kenneth Marks, Lillian Matthews, Roosevelt Sauls, and Harrison Williams

Sponsors:  Chicago Public Art Group and Gallery 37

Year:  1994

Scale:  22 x 99 feet

Materials:  Acrylic paint

Information:  Located in the playlot across the street from Operation PUSH headquarters, this mural celebrates the accomplishments of Jessie ‘Ma’ Houston, a veteran civil rights and prisoner rights activist, and early supporter of Operation PUSH. Prior to designing the mural, Williams distributed mural announcements and invited community members to a meeting. The main community voices that emerged were relatives of ‘Ma’ Houston. The daughter of ‘Ma’ Houston, Helen Sinclair, contributed significantly to the design with her convincing oral history on her mother and photographs from Operation PUSH. The research and oral history highlighted ‘Ma’ Houston’s extraordinary ministry to unloved and forgotten inmates of our nation’s prisons as well as her dedication to Operation PUSH and civil rights. The mural design incorporated a portrait of ‘Ma’ Houston and details of her life.

An early major work by Williams, the juxtaposition of African patterning and volumetric figures is also homage to the aesthetic influence of the Caton and Jones mural collaboration. The mural features a large portrait of Blues guitarist, Johnny Shines (1915-1992), representing the voice of African-Americans who struggled in and out of the American south. There is a procession of civil rights marchers and a portrait of a prisoner who speaks of ‘Ma’ Houston. This window also serves as a reminder to youth of the results of anti-social behavior.