Spartans will spot a new mural when on Albert Avenue.
Painted above the entrance/exit of the Division Street Garage on Albert Avenue, “First Class” by Michigan-based artist Ndubisi Okoye honors the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Robert L. Green through depictions of his fight for equality.
The mural features a portrait of Green with objects significant to his life surrounding him — his historic East Lansing home; a tennis ball, in reference to his work with Arthur Ashe in South Africa to help end apartheid; a football, relating to his time working with athletes in the Big Ten and advocacy for justice in coaching recruiting practices; a Spartan logo, paying homage to Green’s legacy at MSU as an advocate, alumnus, professor and first Black dean; and a “313,” Detroit’s area code and Green’s first home.
Okoye said he hopes the public gains a sense of curiosity from his mural.
“His name isn't really popular,” Okoye said. “So, for those that are older, as far as college students and younger, I hope they get curious. I want them to Google his name. I want them to find out more about him and how much he’s impacted East Lansing, but also the world at large.”
An MSU alumnus himself, Green advocated for change in East Lansing and beyond. Locally, he most notably served as the first Black dean appointed by MSU and was the first Black man to purchase a home in East Lansing. Nationally, he worked closely alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the education director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and has advised mayors, state legislators and community leaders on policy. He is best known for his work in education, urban development and diversity issues.
“First Class” was commissioned by the East Lansing Arts Commision and selected by the East Lansing Art Selection Panel following a "Request for Proposals" for a downtown East Lansing mural highlighting East Lansing’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I think it honors such a great man,” Okoye said. “I think it's a part of history and culture that's very important and I think it is something that'll be there a very, very long time. So, I think it just adds to the arts and culture of East Lansing.”
Okoye graduated from College for Creative Studies in Detroit with a B.F.A. in advertising design. On his website, he describes himself as a multidisciplinary creative with a passion for telling stories that motivate, represent and inspire people, especially within the African Diaspora.
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