Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awards grant to Ypsilanti teen group for immigration mural project

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation recently awarded a $1,000 grant to Melissa Stek, a Masters of Social Work student at the University of Michigan. Stek, who received the award on behalf of the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights teen group with which she works, had the following to say about the public mural project that the funds will make possible.


MARK: Where did the idea for this project come from?

MELISSA: So, a little background: The Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) teen group initially came together as a support group for teens from mixed-status families impacted by immigration enforcement. Since then, the group has operated as both a healing space, in which teens can process similar experiences, and a space for organizing and advocacy around immigration issues. This past year, the youth focused on learning organizing strategies, and how to advocate for local-level policy changes. And they successfully engaged at the city and county level on immigration policy change. They also participated in WICIR’s rallies and other political actions in support of federal-level immigration reform and fair treatment of unaccompanied minors.

ImmigrantTeenMural3At the end of the fall semester, the teens basically said, “We’re tired!” They had learned so much, and been very politically active, and they wanted to do something artistic for a change. They also said they wanted to do some more internal work, related to themselves, their identities, differences, relationships, etc. They missed the support group feel that teen group used to have. So, given all those desires, they decided they wanted to paint a mural that would allow them to process life’s challenges that they continue to face… Political advocacy through art activism. Very cool, very interdisciplinary.

MARK: Am I mistaken in thinking that this is the same teen group that not too long ago lobbied Ypsi City Council to endorse the Washtenaw ID Project?

MELISSA: Yep, that’s them! They did so great. They are an inspiration. Yeah, they began meeting with Ypsi City Council members last summer about wanting to make the city a safer, more welcoming place for immigrant families, considering the many deportations of parents and other community members that have taken place in recent years. The Council helped the teens narrow their focus and create the right language for a resolution in support of the Washtenaw ID Project, which will be very beneficial for undocumented County residents. The teens don’t want to stop there though! They’ve talked about wanting to keep working with the City to continue making Ypsi a safe place for immigrant families. They are amazing advocates for their families and neighbors!

ImmigrantTeenMural1MARK: What can you tell us about the murals themselves? There are two of them planned, right?

MELISSA: Yes, as of right now the teens plan to create two 4’ x 6’ murals, which will be in downtown Ypsilanti, on an wall outside the Dos Hermanos market. The group hopes that the murals will show their identities, their community’s immigrant experience, and the effects of a broken immigration system on their families and neighborhoods.

MARK: So, what’s the current status of the project? Are these teens working with an artist? Do sketches already exist?

MELISSA: We’re presently in the visioning and planning stage. The teens are processing their own personal experiences, and working together to decide how best to visually share their collective story. And we’ve partnered with a local muralist, Alejandro Chinchilla, to help the teens work through this process and get a handle the logistics… figuring out the supplies needed, picking out paint, timing everything out, etc. Alejandro has painted several murals around Ann Arbor, so we’re going to take a trip with the teens in the next few weeks or so to see his artwork firsthand, and discuss what they’d like to convey through their work. And, soon, we’re hoping to have sketches.

MARK: And what has to happen within the City to make this happen? Am I right to assume that someone will have to sign-off, even though this is going to be on a privately owned building?

ImmigratnTeenMural2MELISSA: Another co-facilitator, Martha Valadez, is in communication with the City, and we’re confident that it the murals will be welcomed. And, of course, we have the enthusiastic support of the folks at Dos Hermanos.

MARK: And how many teens are involved in this?

MELISSA: About 15.

MARK: So, when will people be able to see the finished murals?

MELISSA: The end of August; mid-September at the latest.

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  1. EOS
    Posted March 22, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

  2. Posted March 22, 2015 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    How did I know that the first comment would be from you, EOS?

  3. Tim
    Posted March 22, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    What’s your point EOS?

  4. Posted March 22, 2015 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    If all those undocumented immigrants weren’t wasting their time painting murals, they’d be showing up for their hearings.

    At least, that’s what I think EOS meant.

  5. EOS
    Posted March 22, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Laws are broken. Minors are exploited. Most will be sent home or remain here illegally. $1K for a mural. How much will the kids be paid?

  6. anonymous
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    EOS, thank you, after years of attacking undocumented workers on this site, for finally stepping up and defend them by asking how much they will pay themselves for working on their own mural.

  7. EOS
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    These minors are reportedly from mixed-status families, which means they are likely born in the USA. Their parents are likely the undocumented workers. The painting will occur on the side of a privately owned business. So, will they earn a living wage salary for the hours they spend painting?

  8. maryd
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I am so excited to see more public art.

  9. Mr. X
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The teens approached Dos Hermanos with the idea, EOS. This is their idea. But you know that. You know that they’re not being exploited in any way, but you’re hoping that, by suggesting this, you can somehow stop a project you don’t like from happening. You have sunk to a new low, feigning concern when all you really want is to keep the voices of these young people from being heard.

  10. EOS
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Was it the teen’s idea or Melissa’s idea? The article stated the teens were tired. I don’t want to stop the project, just expose the hypocrisy. I’m sure there are many in the community that will see the mural and think that somehow it has helped immigrants. Go ahead, feel good about yourselves…but how does this help?

  11. Meta
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    EOS’s earlier attacks on immigrants:

  12. EOS
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I have no problem with legal immigration. We are a nation of immigrants. I welcome all who come here legally.

  13. XXX
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    EOS, if you send your photo in, maybe they could work you into the mural standing in front of a bus full of immigrant kids or something.

  14. Posted March 23, 2015 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad to see that EOS is at least concerned about living wages.

  15. EOS
    Posted March 23, 2015 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    No. This site condemned restaurant owners, not for hiring illegal immigrants and paying them under the table, but for not paying them a living wage. So why is it good to use teens to promote a political agenda under the guise of a “support group” and then to use them as unpaid labor to paint a local market while somebody pockets $1000 in charitable donations, minus the cost of paint and brushes.

  16. Posted March 25, 2015 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    EOS is crazier than ever.

    Question: What evidence do you have to suggest that someone will pocket any of the money provided?

    Answer: None.

    It is interesting to see a self professed Christian so hastily throw false or unsubstantiated accusations, but then we know that God hates children of undocumented immigrants.

  17. EOS
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    Evidence? The first sentence of the story says Melissa has received a $1000 grant. Unless the original story is fabricated, she currently has pocketed $1000 and will spend it in the manner of her own choosing. She might give it all to Alejandro, she might spend it all on paint, or she might pay the minors a living wage for their work. She might even keep it all for her salary.

    Crazy? No, I think you are doing the best you can with the limited reading comprehension skills that you have.

    God loves the children of illegal immigrants and doesn’t want to see them exploited for political purposes.

  18. Posted March 25, 2015 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Melissa applied for a grant on behalf of the young people with whom she works. In that grant proposal, she laid out how said funds would be spent. The Awesome Board of Trustees liked the plan and agreed to award the money. I applaud your efforts to divert this conversation, EOS, but this assertion of yours is absolutely baseless, and, quite honestly, embarrassing. You have no grounds whatsoever to suggest that these funds will not be used for the murals in question. I get that you have an issue with undocumented workers, and don’t want a mural about their struggles in our community, but this new line of attack of yours is laughable.

  19. EOS
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    You could tell us how Melissa proposed the funds to be spent, but you haven’t. You could tell us if the minors will be getting paid a living wage for their efforts, but you haven’t. Did she say 100% of the funds will pay for paint and brushes for two 4 x 6 murals?

    I’m glad there will be a mural on the side of the Market. I like murals. I even like graffiti when it isn’t gang related. As I wrote previously, I’m not trying to stop this project, merely exposing the hypocrisy. I guess I didn’t realize that some would associate a negative connotation to the term, “pocket the money”. It simply means the money is in one’s possession. All of the money will be distributed in some fashion and will end up in someone’s pocket, whether payment for goods or payment for services. I never suggested or implied that the funds would not be used for the murals.

    My point is, and I don’t consider it laughable, is whether in her efforts to “help” these children of undocumented workers, does any of the money end up in the pockets of those who are being “helped”? Or is their labor not considered worthy of remuneration?

  20. anonymous
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    “I guess I didn’t realize that some would associate a negative connotation to the term, “pocket the money”.”

    I used to think you were just a fool. You’re really a mean-spirited ass though.

  21. EOS
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 9:17 am | Permalink


    Still waiting for an answer to the original question, ” How much will the kids be paid?”

  22. anonymous
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I refuse to believe you are this stupid, EOS. She applied for a grant on their behalf. This whole thing is their idea. They aren’t being hired to make a mural. They want to make a mural. And the Awesome Foundation gave them money for supplies. If there is money left over, I’m sure the kids will buy ice cream with it or something.

  23. Posted March 25, 2015 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    EOS is hilarious.

  24. Lynne
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    EOS *is* hilarious. However, also wrong (as usual).

    There is no requirement that the kids be paid. This is a voluntary art activity which is different from employment. You would be hard pressed to find a judge willing to enforce some FLSA provision here.

    For more information see:

  25. Mr. Y
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    He doesn’t care about kids. We’ve already established that. Don’t you remember how he wanted to shut down Ozone House?

  26. Lynne
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Oh woops, I posted the wrong link, not that I expect EOS to read it as I suspect that he/she doesn’t actually care that someone might be violating the FLSA

  27. EOS
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I didn’t say they were required to pay anyone. Does anyone have a link to the grant application to show how Melissa proposed to spend the $1000.

  28. EOS
    Posted March 25, 2015 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Mr. Y,

    I didn’t propose to shut down Ozone House either. Merely expressed concern that there were no safeguards in place to prevent homeless kids from sleeping at the personal residences of the adults that they met at the facility.

  29. EOS
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    Tom went on whitewashing – paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: “Hi- yi ! You’re up a stump, ain’t you!”

    No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom’s mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:

    “Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?”

    Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

    “Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”

    “Say – I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work – wouldn’t you? Course you would!”

    Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

    “What do you call work?”

    “Why, ain’t that work?”

    Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

    “Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”

    “Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

    The brush continued to move.

    “Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

    That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticised the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

    “Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

    Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

    “No – no – I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence – right here on the street, you know – but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

    “No – is that so? Oh come, now – lemme, just try. Only just a little – I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”

    “Ben, I’d like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly – well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn’t let Sid. Now don’t you see how I’m fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it – ”

    “Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.”

    “Well, here – No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard – ”

    “I’ll give you all of it!”

    Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with – and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles,part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar – but no dog – the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.

    He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while – plenty of company – and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.

    Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.

    The boy mused awhile over the substantial change which had taken place in his worldly circumstances, and then wended toward headquarters to report.

  30. Posted March 26, 2015 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    EOS has lost it.

  31. EOS
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 4:24 am | Permalink

    You never had it.

  32. Tom Ellis
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    A report on the activities of the WICIR teen group was published online last nigth. They are doing good things in our community.

  33. EOS
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Sure, the WIC was the very same group that was actively supporting the Restaurant Workplace Project that wanted to provide stickers on the doors of local restaurants that verified that they were paying illegal immigrant workers a fair wage.

  34. Lynne
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    That’s a great idea! I love things that give information to the consumer and knowing that a restaurant pays a fair wage is pretty useful information.

  35. EOS
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Well, we agree on one thing. Knowing a restaurant employs illegal immigrant workers is useful information that can guide a consumer’s choice.

  36. Posted March 26, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I support the employment of undocumented immigrants.

    Borders and passports are bullshit.

  37. maryd
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I agree 100% Peter Larson. I am done with all these immigration haters.

  38. Posted March 26, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    It is interesting that EOS claims to oppose the exploitation of undocumented workers but supports a system which enables it while claiming to be a free marketer.

  39. Frosted Flakes
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Immigrants, illegal or not, are good for the economy. They are almost always highly productive workers….That is my experience anyway….

  40. site admin
    Posted November 2, 2015 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    The unveiling of the mural is this Saturday at 11:30 in Ypsilanti.

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  1. […] above mural was made possible in part thanks to a $1,000 grant from the Ann Arbor Awesome […]

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