Huge hand-painted mural of activist and former Leeds student unveiled at Leeds University Union

A hand-painted mural celebrating a community activist and former Leeds student has been unveiled at Leeds University Union's Co-op store.

Saturday, 20th November 2021, 4:45 am

Melz Owusu, an activist, scholar and Founder of the Free Black University, is celebrated in the striking image which was unveiled on Friday.

Co-op worked with Leeds University Union’s Political Engagement Team (LUU) to choose Melz as the subject on the mural, as part of a series to champion those who have made a positive impact on their local communities.

Melz has campaigned in support of Black Lives Matter UK, decolonising education and trans visibility, appearing on the popular TEDx platform.

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Melz Owusu is an activist, scholar and Founder of the Free Black University

The mural, 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 staff and students on campus to continue positive discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion.

Three hand-painted murals will be on display in different cities of the UK as part of the Co-op project, each a portrait of an inspirational Black individual from the local community.

Melz Owusu 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.

"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 Co-op campaign was launched by a focus group of Black Co-op leaders and colleagues, with the hope of continuing the dialogue around race and identity beyond Black History Month.

It follows educational events, panel discussions and listening circles that took place during October's month of awareness.

Any Harding, store manager at Co-op Leeds University, said: “We’re so proud to be able to celebrate such an influential and inspiring member of the local community.

"We hope that this fantastic display demonstrates Co-op’s commitment to supporting and celebrating local heroes and our promise to continue campaigning for race diversity, inclusivity and equality.”

Natasha Fowler-Ekar, Equality and Liberation Officer at Leeds University Union, added: “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.”

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