A new mural has appeared on The Leonard Theater building in downtown Scranton. Surrounded by poplar leaves and bright yellow flowers, the mural reads “Human After All” in red and yellow print. The mural is the culmination of several weeks’ work between local artists Eric Bussart and Emmanuel Wisdom. Finished on July 19th, 2020, the “Human After All” mural was designed to bring people together during these polarizing times. Emmanuel Wisdom revealed the message behind the mural in an interview by NEPA Scene: “The idea behind the mural is to promote unity, education, human connection, as well as promote a positive call to action. The mural tells the story of brutality towards African Americans in the U.S., especially down South, heavily inspired by Nina Simone’s ‘Strange Fruit’ song and historical events. Our hope is that the mural educates as well as provokes thoughts that challenge our current norm and our interaction with one another or a specific group of people.”
The mural uses Simone’s song, “Strange Fruit,” to draw parallels between the unjust killings of African Americans - including Breanna Taylor, George Floyd, and, most recently, Trayford Pellerin - at police hands and the violent lynchings of the not-so-distant past. In fact, according to CNN, there was an increase in lynchings during 2019. These victims include Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, and more.
The imagery – or, more specifically, the allusions to Simone’s lyrics “strange fruit hangin’/from the poplar trees” – allows the mural to reference violence and lynchings without depicting the graphic nature of the subject. The mural’s location also has a symbolic meaning – The Leonard Theater Building is just a few blocks away from Courthouse Square, where several Black Lives Matter protests were held earlier this year.
In the same interview, Wisdom elaborated further on the mural’s meaning. The mural illustrates human connection through interwoven text. It emphasizes interconnectivity in the human race and the “complexity” of society. The Human After All mural uses a combination of imagery and text to promote a “positive call to action.” The harsh lettering mimics the surrounding buildings, and according to Wisdom: “The overall type design illustrates the complexity (interlocking with one another) of human society.”
Ryan Hnat, the owner of the Northeast Art Project, coordinated the “Human After All” mural. The NEAP has commissioned several projects throughout Scranton with the goal of creating public art in collaboration with local property owners. According to Hnat, the mural was commissioned due to the recent political climate and the recent Black Lives Matter protests: “The timing of this mural is significant,” Hnat said in an interview with NEPA Scene. “Art is a reflection of what is happening in society and has the ability to be a catalyst for change.” At its core, “Human After All” is a reflection on current events – acknowledging the tragedies of the past and demonstrating hope for the future.
The Leonard Theater Mural officially unveiled the “Human After All” mural on August 1st, 2020. Located on Adams Avenue, the mural is officially open to the public.