CONYERS - Community members joined Rockdale County and city of Conyers elected officials and staff Tuesday afternoon for the unveiling of a new mural that has been painted on the side of the J. P. Carr Gymnasium.
Last fall, Rockdale County Parks and Recreation was awarded a $5,000 Vibrant Communities Grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts to fund the Rockdale Youth Mural Exhibit. A portion of the funds went toward the mural at the gym, and a portion will go toward a second mural to be painted at the Milstead Park and Splash Pad.
The theme of the mural at the J. P. Carr Gym was historical significance, and it was planned to be unveiled during Black History Month.
The Bryant Street School was built in 1950 after a fire destroyed the former school. It was built on land donated to the school by a prominent citizen in the black community, brick mason John Philip Carr, and in 1958 the name of the school was changed to J. P. Carr School to honor him. The gymnasium was added in 1961.
The school’s colors were maroon and gray and the school’s basketball team, the Eagles, were one of the top teams in the state. The marching band also regularly brought home trophies from district and state competitions.
The last senior class to graduate from J.P. Carr was in 1969. Carr was then downgraded to a junior high school under the merger of black and white schools, and today it is the site of the J. P. Carr Community Center and Gymnasium.
Emmanuel Reed was chosen to be the artist for the mural. He was assisted by several local students and gave them credit for the work.
“I am one of many artists that finished the mural,” Reed said. “What means the most for me was having the students come out every Saturday. We wanted to make you proud. This neighborhood and community has so much history. I’m grateful and humbled for the opportunity, and I hope I made everyone proud.”
Students taking part in the painting of the mural were Andria Mattox, Soulé Price and Harold Humtley of Heritage High School, DeAndré Mattox of General Ray Davis Middle School, and A’akeilah Mattox of Barksdale Elementary School.
Post 2 Commissioner Dr. Doreen Williams said the arts have a been a part of her initiative since she took office.
“I think it is such an important piece of the community, especially to get our youth involved,” she said. “But this is really remarkable because the rich history of the school and of the grounds. I’m excited to see it.”
Post 1 Commissioner Sherri Washington recalled there being talk about what to do with the gym when she first moved to Rockdale County.
“The passion about wanting to preserve the history that flowed through J. P. Carr was so riveting in the community that the revitalization and everything that they’ve done to keep this gym here is a testament to that commitment to the history,” Williams said. “To combine the history of J. P. Carr with current students and members of this community, to do something that memorializes that, is coming full circle. I’m so proud that we were able to include our students in this endeavor.”
Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. added you have to understand the history and heritage of a community before you can build on that progress.
“Today is a very momentous occasion and a historical day,” he said, “not just for black Rockdale or black Conyers or black history, but this is a day for Rockdale County, for the city of Conyers, as we embrace each other - the different talents, the different cultures, the different cultures that make this the best community and best county in the state of Georgia.”
Conyers Mayor Vince Evans commented that the mural will help keep the history of J. P. Carr alive.
“You want to keep the memory of people in your heart,” Evans said, “but as time goes by, sometimes you have to do things like this to keep the memories alive and keep the history alive.”
Conyers City Councilman and longtime coach Cleveland Stroud, who went to J. P. Carr, talked about the history of the school and the people in the area and said the mural symbolize maintaining that history.
“We’ve come a long ways in Rockdale County, because of you,” Stroud told the crowd gathered. “Memorializing this building means our history is really here. The history of this school and Mr. J. P. Carr will stay in our minds and hearts and accessible to all.”
Rev. Al Sadler also went to J. P. Carr and was a member of the last graduating class. He said the building and its history means a lot to those who have been around a lifetime.
“Today is a proud moment for those of us who have been around for a number of years, and I just want to thank the artist for this rendition that he has placed upon the wall,” Sadler said. “ o every time we ride by here, we have a lot of memories about this place. This is our Taj Mahal, because this is where we grew up and learned and became other people in the community. So I’m proud today to be a part of the unveiling of this mural.”