Portrait conveys spirit of Laniyah Murphy to GSU community


Photo Credit: Nuha Abdessalam

Nuha Abdessalam, Phoenix Staff Writer

LaNiyah Murphy’s vibrancy persists throughout the halls of GSU, remembered for her activism against gun violence, her kindness, and her uplifting spirit that’s touched many directly and indirectly.

A Portrait to honor Murphy as a student, family member, friend, activist, and community member has been completed and installed in the D-Atrium near the main entrance.

GSU Alumna Latia Jackson (B.A. Fine Arts) and student Dominique MacLean collaborated to create the portrait earlier this year. Community members have described Murphy as positive and impactful. In setting out to bring Murphy’s spirit and character to life, the artists sought out GSU community members, students, faculty and staff and asked them to leave words of encouragement or thoughts about  Murphy to implement within the piece.

“Dominique helped form structure and developed a framework by adding encouragement from students, faculty, staff, and community members,” Jackson said, “Putting these words on the leaves of the portrait’s tree transcending positivity everlasting to those who stop and read and find encouraging.”

“While I didn’t have the fortune of meeting LaNiyah, I almost felt like I got to through the community’s words,” MacLean added, “It’s been an eye-opening experience reading note after note on shared memories, learning she loved to dance.”

The committee supported Jackson and MacLean’s efforts in integrating the voices of the community.

“We wanted to incorporate the words and memories left for LaNiyah, it was our goal, and that is why we have words of encouragement painted on the portrait leaves,” MacLean added, “Our intent and hope is for those walking by the mural would spend more than 60 seconds looking at it, thoroughly examining the details.”

In the mural, also inspired by conversations with Dr. Phyllis West (part of the art committee), Jackson said, “We discussed the tree of life and how LaNiyah’s spirit and work brought a lot of life, making the portrait that keeps her vibrancy alive was essential.”

“When Latia and I discussed the tree of life further, and how to continue coveying uplifting inspiration, we knew lifting her as in the portrait to be center was to encourage positivity rather than sadness when viewing,” MacLean said. “LaNiayh was full of life, and like her portrait, she helped grow a community, and her spirit persists in a flourishing community.”

“Being part of this was like having an out-of-body experience,” Jackson said, “Being part of history, realizing this mural will be hung at GSU forever, it was surreal; I feel proud, proud for LaNiyah and her Family.

“In the portrait, she’s holding a sphere of light. It’s holding her accomplishments throughout her life, being part of D.A.R.E, going to the White House, her acts so bright and light shining, and from there her roots to how her work has rooted her liveliness.”