Michigan is about to host a number of human rights activists and artists, as they bring a global street art project to Detroit and Ann Arbor. The project, named Education is Not a Crime and aptly shortened to #NotACrime is a campaign for the equality of education rights. They are using street art as a method of showing solidarity with their cause. The murals have been a showcase through out many different cities and have finally made their way into Michigan. Saleem Vaillancourt, an advocate and representative for #NotACrime, acknowledges the inequalities globally as well as in the US education system. According to him, launching #NotACrime in Michigan is a fantastic opportunity to help the movement gain traction locally and spark debate about education imbalance.
Vaillancourt says, “What’s important for us in the Education is Not a Crime project is the promotion of the principle of universal education and the transformative power of education.” While declaring, “We’re just at the beginning of what we’re planning in Michigan. We’re looking for partners, we’re looking for support and we’re looking to learn from the people here.”
Their Plan for Michigan
Education is Not a Crime’s arrival to Michigan is a major moment for the state. It is Michigan’s inclusion in a worldwide program that will not only promote developments in the state, but allow Michigan to be a part of something very big. For Michigan, it is another foray into the advocacy for human rights.
#NotACrime’s murals in Michigan will feature the work of local legend Robert Hayden. The late Detroit native was the first black American to serve as the U.S. Poet Laureate. Having attended Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, Hayden extensively researched black history for the Federal Writers’ Project. Having taught regularly at UM and Fisk University, Hayden passed away in 1980 at the age of 66.
What made Hayden perfect for this campaign was that he strongly advocated for the need of higher education and he adhered to the Baha’I faith. This faith teaches the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. Devastatingly, the Baha’I people have been banned from education for 39 years due to the Iranian Revolution. These aspects make him the perfect Michigan local to be featured in #NotACrime’s murals, according to Vaillancourt.
To find more about the movement, you can watch the documentary called “Changing the World, One Wall at a Time.” The documentary features a number of interviews conducted with human rights activists, street artists, and the Baha’I people. The film is currently screening in Ann Arbor and is followed by an interview with Maziar Bahari, the founder of the movement and a producer on the film.