Volunteers to Highlight Diversity

Students to Assist With Plan to Ease Racial Tension

In an effort to ease racial tensions following last fall's Stuart murder case, approximately 25 Harvard students will join 35,000 Boston-area children and an artist named "Sidewalk Sam" in a project celebrating the city's ethnic diversity.

The Harvard participants--recruited by Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) and Harvard Neighborhood Development (HAND)--will distribute art supplies next month to elementary school students who will create artwork based on their ethnic backgrounds. The Harvard students will then help collect the artwork and assemble each of the approximately 35,000 pieces into a large mural at Roxbury Community College.

Shahrayne M. Litchfield, program director at PBHA, said the organization first decided to get involved after "Sidewalk Sam"--whose real name is Robert Guillemin--made a presentation at a meeting of the PBHA cabinet, the organization's executive committee.

Cabinet members who viewed the presentation said they were impressed by the project, called "Boston Kids Have Pride."

"It is supposed to instill racial harmony in people's minds and hearts and to show how art is a bridge," Litchfield said.

"I saw it originally as a chance to do something positive, because there are a lot of negative feelings and negative energies," said Richard R. Buery '92, a member of the PBHA Steering Committee.

Buery said he thinks it is important that the project includes children from Mission Hill, the Boston neighborhood in which Carol Stuart was murdered.

Huyen T. Tham '92, a PBHA volunteer, said she thinks it is important to consider racism "in terms of kids."

"Everyone can relate to kids," she said.

Artist Guillemin said he first conceived of the project "in the aftermath of all that negative commentary about Boston," following Carol Stuart's alleged murder by her husband Charles.

Tina D. Guillemin, the artist's wife, said the idea also stems from the couple's ideas about the purpose of art.

"You can have art for art's sake," she said, "but you can also have art for people's sake. That's what public art is all about."

In the first part of the privately funded project, each child will be given a small piece of colored paper on which to draw a picture or write a poem or statement about his or her own culture or ethnic heritage.

The individual creations will be arranged so that, when the mural is viewed from afar, the colored papers will depict a group of children.

"Even though the size of each piece of paper is small, each little piece is a very important part of the whole, which is a lot like society," Tina Guillemin said.

Guillemin said she is pleased with the work that PBHA has done in inner-city Boston, because it fights the ignorance that breeds prejudice.

"It's very easy to be prejudiced against something you don't understand," said Tina. "But if you understand it you can embrace it. You can love it."