The social justice art installation, located in the education wing, is comprised of paintings of individuals that have broken through barriers of race, gender, and sexual orientation, and achieved great things across the many areas of our society.
Painted by Adam Johnson, local artist and educator, these paintings offer an opportunity to learn from those that came before us. Johnson has granted Oak Grove approval to display these reproductions and information on each individual on our website. You can learn more about Johnson’s work at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/mrjohnsonpaints.
We invite you to learn more about each of these individuals and the lasting impact they left and continue to leave on our society.
THE HONORABLE JUSTICE ALAN PAGE
Justice Page served on Minnesota’s Supreme Court for 22 years and was one of the greatest defensive players in NFL History. Page was the first defensive player to be named MVP in 1971. He was also the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1971 and 1973. In his fifteen-year career, Page accounted for 148.5 sacks and 22 fumble recoveries. Page was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. Justice Page’s greatest contribution, however, may be the Page Education Foundation. Founded by Justice Page and his wife, Diane, the Page Foundation has provided more than $12 million in scholarships to more than 6,000 students since 1988. Justice Page continues to be a fixture in Minneapolis Public Schools and the Twin Cities area.
Gorman became the first National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States in 2017. At just 22 years old, Gorman was the youngest poet to date to receive that honor. She gained widespread fame when she performed a spoken word poem at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.
Learn more about Gorman here: https://www.theamandagorman.com/
Born on June 12, 1929, Frank was a Jewish teenager from Frankfurt, Germany who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust. She and her family, along with four others, spent over two years during World War II hiding in an annex of rooms on Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. Since it was first published in 1947, Anne Frank’s diary has become one of the most powerful memoirs of the Holocaust. Its message of courage and hope in the face of adversity has reached millions. Anne Frank’s story is especially meaningful to young people today. For many she is their first, if not their only exposure to the history of the Holocaust. After being betrayed to the Nazis, Anne, her family, and the others living with them were arrested and deported to Nazi concentration camps. In March of 1945, seven months after she was arrested, Anne Frank died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen. She was fifteen years old.
Learn more about Frank here: https://www.annefrank.org/en/
Chávez was a Mexican-American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist. Chávez started his activism in fighting racial and economic discrimination and advocating for voting. Chávez moved onto and dedicated the rest of his life to bringing about better working and living conditions for agricultural workers through organizing and negotiating employment contracts. Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association. In 1994 Chávez was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.
Learn more about Chávez here: https://ufw.org/research/history/story-cesar-chavez/
Boseman returned to his alma mater, Howard University, to give the 2018 commencement speech. He delivered a powerful message about finding purpose: “This day, when you have reached the hilltop and you are deciding on next jobs, next steps, careers, further education, you would rather find purpose than a job or career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”
Learn more about Boseman here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Chadwick-Boseman
Haaland, a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo, is the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history, leading the Interior Department, an agency that will play a crucial role in the efforts to combat climate change and conserve nature. Prior to this Haaland served as a tribal administrator at San Felipe Pueblo. Haaland also became the first woman elected to the Laguna Development Corporation Board of Directors, overseeing business operations of the second largest tribal gaming enterprise in New Mexico and successfully advocating for environmentally friendly business practices.
Learn more about Haaland here: https://www.doi.gov/secretary-deb-haaland
Huerta is a legendary labor leader, women’s advocate and civil rights activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers (UFW). Working alongside UFW President César Chávez, Huerta was involved in numerous community and labor organizing efforts in Central California and quickly became a skilled organizer and negotiator for the union. In the UFW she was instrumental in the union’s many successes, including the strikes against California grape growers in the 1960s and 1970s. As an advocate for farmworkers’ rights, Huerta was arrested twenty-two times for participating in non-violent civil disobedience activities and strikes.
Learn more about Huerta here: https://doloreshuerta.org/doloreshuerta/
DR. ELLEN OCHOA
Ochoa became the first Latina to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. She flew a total of 4 missions, serving as the flight engineer (during launch, rendezvous and entry phases of each mission), as robotic arm operator and as lead for science experiments. In total, she spent nearly 1,000 hours in space from 1993 to 2002.
Learn more about Ochoa here: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/about/people/orgs/bios/ochoa.html
FANNIE LOU HAMER
Hamer was a galvanizing force of the Civil Rights movement, using her voice to advance voting rights and representation for Black Americans throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Faced with eviction, arrests, and abuse at the hands of white doctors, policemen, and others, Hamer stayed true to her faith and her conviction in non-violent progress. She helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, ran for Congress, and was one of the first three Black women in American history to be seated on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Hamer dedicated herself fully as a grassroots organizer of the Civil Rights movement, inspiring countless activists and pushing progress forward.
Learn more about Hamer here: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/fannie-lou-hamer and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLZ-0Eup-CQ
Kahlo was a Mexican artist best known for her self-portraits. Her paintings are strongly influenced by Mexican folk culture, and use lots of bright colors and dramatic symbolism. Frida was proud of her Mexican heritage. She was inspired by traditional Mexican art which is wonderfully colorful, bright, patterned, symbolic art. It is full of feathers, flowers, dancing, music, and texture. She often featured animals in her self-portraits, such as monkeys, parrots, a hairless dog, and deer.
Learn more about Kahlo here: https://www.fridakahlo.org/
Milk was a visionary civil and human rights leader who became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk’s unprecedented loud and unapologetic proclamation of his authenticity as an openly gay candidate for public office, and his subsequent election gave never before experienced hope to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people everywhere at a time when the community was encountering widespread hostility and discrimination.
Learn more about Milk here: https://milkfoundation.org/about/harvey-milk-biography/
Robinson stepped foot onto Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger for the first time on April 15, 1947, breaking the color barrier in baseball and changing the sport, and all sports, forever. Jackie Robinson was much more than a baseball player. He was a veteran, a business man and a civil rights activist.
Learn more about Robinson here: https://jackierobinson.org/jackie-robinson/
Basquiat’s dramatic life and iconic paintings—which variously feature obsessive scribbling, enigmatic symbols and diagrams, and iconography including skulls, masks, and the artist’s trademark crown—make him one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. The self-taught painter embraced graffiti before committing to a studio practice. He found a mentor and friend in Andy Warhol, who helped the young artist navigate the 1980s New York art world. Across his oeuvre, Basquiat drew on his own Caribbean heritage; a convergence of African American, African, and Aztec cultural histories; classical themes; and pop cultural figures including athletes and musicians. The immediacy and intellectual depth of his paintings won him widespread acclaim both before and after his untimely death at the age of 27.
Learn more about Basquiat here: https://www.basquiat.com/about/
Lewis was an American civil rights leader and politician. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the mid-1960s and played a key role in the civil rights movement including the March on Washington and the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, now known as Bloody Sunday. Lewis served in the United States Congress for more than 30 years.
Learn more about Lewis here: https://www.johnandlillianmileslewisfoundation.org/the-lewis-legacy/
At age eleven, Yousafzai was already advocating for the rights of women and girls. As an outspoken proponent for girls’ right to education, Yousafzai was often in danger because of her beliefs. However, even after being shot by the Taliban, she continued her activism and founded the Malala Fund with her father. By age seventeen, Yousafzai became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her work.
Learn more about Yousafzai: https://malala.org/malalas-story
MARSHA P. JOHNSON
Johnson fearlessly advocated for her rights and the rights of the LGBTQ community at a time when doing so put her safety in jeopardy. Johnson was a key figure of the 1960s gay rights movement in the US and, as legend has it, threw the brick that ignited the infamous Stonewall riots, which were the catalyst for the movement and have inspired many Pride marches ever since.
REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is considered one of history’s greatest speakers and social activists. His leadership helped end segregation during the American civil rights movement.
King led this movement through nonviolence and civil disobedience, was jailed over 19 times and targeted by the FBI. The many protests and marches include the Montgomery bus boycott, Atlanta sit-ins, and the March on Washington. The “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and “I Have a Dream” are two of King’s most recognized and quoted pieces of work. In 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1968, at the age of 39, King was assassinated because of his beliefs and work for equality.
Learn more about King here: https://thekingcenter.org/about-tkc/martin-luther-king-jr/
Angelou was an American poet, activist, performer, and professor. She was best known for her poetry and several books based on her life, especially I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.
Learn more about Angelou here: https://www.mayaangelou.com/biography/
Mandela led the struggle to replace the apartheid regime of South Africa with a multi-racial democracy. After becoming involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his 20s, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1942. For 20 years, he directed a campaign of peaceful, nonviolent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies and in 1962 Mandela was put in jail for 27 years. He was released in 1990 and in 1994 became the country’s first black president and played a leading role in the drive for peace in other spheres of conflict. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Learn more about Mandela here: https://www.nelsonmandela.org/content/page/biography
Wellstone served two terms in the U.S. Senate representing Minnesota. Wellstone won’t be remembered for his legislation. Wellstone lost more than he won. And since Wellstone believed in the little guy, he was known as “the conscience of the Senate.” Wellstone was an activist and a community organizer far longer than he ever served in office. He fought for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. He organized welfare recipients, stood with farmers facing bankruptcy, fought power companies from traipsing over poor people’s land, and walked picket lines with unions. Wellstone’s gift was that he knew how to listen. He listened to people talk about their lives, their families, their struggles, their successes. Wellstone listened to people because that’s why he was doing any and all of this – for the people.
Learn more about Wellstone at: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CDOC-107sdoc16/pdf/CDOC-107sdoc16.pdf
Parks was an activist for two decades before her bus stand. One of the issues that animated her six decades of activism was the injustice of the criminal justice system — wrongful accusations against Black men, disregard for Black women who had been sexually assaulted, and police brutality. Parks received more than forty-three honorary doctorate degrees and numerous other awards including the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, and in 1996 Parks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Learn more about Parks here: https://www.rosaparks.org/biography/
On November 14, 1960, when Bridges was only six years old, she became one of the first black children to integrate New Orleans’ all white public school system. Greeted by an angry mob and escorted by federal marshals, Ruby bravely crossed the threshold of this school and into history single-handedly initiating the desegregation of New Orleans’ public schools. As an adult Ruby Bridges takes very seriously her own commitment to being part of that community needed to care for the next generation of children. She is a fierce advocate for integration and equity in education and for teaching children accurate history including stories like her own.
Learn more about Bridges here: https://www.rubybridges.com/story
THE HONORABLE JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG
Justice Ginsburg faced many challenges to become a lawyer. In 1956, she was one of only nine women at Harvard Law School (out of 500 students!). She and her female classmates were even banned from using one of the libraries on campus. But that didn’t stop her from following her dream—which led her to become the first Jewish person and second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court—the highest court in the country.
Learn more about Ginsburg here: https://www.oyez.org/justices/ruth_bader_ginsburg
Selena was one of the most celebrated Mexican-American entertainers of the late 20th century, and was hailed as the Queen of Tejano music. She was a singer, songwriter, spokesperson, model, actress, and fashion designer.
Learn more about Selena here: https://www.biography.com/musician/selena
Biles won four gold medals and one bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, setting the USA record for most medals in a single Olympics by a female gymnast. Biles is Superwoman on the mat, but that does not mean she is bulletproof. Withdrawing from the individual all-around and team final events to focus on her mental well-being was the most heroic and human thing Biles has ever done publicly for herself and those who admire her.
Learn more about Biles here: https://simonebiles.com/about/
SUNISA “SUNI” LEE
When gymnast Lee stepped out on the global stage at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021 due to the global COVID pandemic), she wasn’t just representing Team USA. She was also representing the Hmong community around the world. And the world took notice when she soared to the top of the podium, winning the gold medal in the women’s all-around competition. With her all-around gold medal, Lee became the first Asian American to claim that prestigious title.
You can learn more about Lee here: https://kids.britannica.com/students/article/Suni-Lee/633857
O’Ree changed hockey forever on Jan. 18, 1958. In the midst of America’s tumultuous fight to end Jim Crow and the birth of the civil rights movement, Willie became the first black player to skate in a National Hockey League game. He played 45 games in the NHL and then 22 years of minor league hockey. Later, Willie sold cars, managed fast food restaurants, and worked security at a hotel. When he was asked to become the NHL’s diversity ambassador in 1994, he was 60 years old. As Director of Youth Development, O’Ree has helped the NHL Diversity program expose more than 40,000 boys and girls of diverse backgrounds to unique hockey experiences. Over the past decade, O’Ree has traveled thousands of miles across North America helping to establish 39 local grassroots hockey programs, all geared towards serving economically disadvantaged youth. While advocating strongly that “Hockey is for Everyone,” O’Ree stresses the importance of essential life skills, education, and the core values of hockey, which are: commitment, perseverance, and teamwork.
Learn more about O’Ree here: https://www.cbssports.com/nhl/news/willie-oree-the-nhls-first-black-player-to-receive-congressional-gold-medal/
LaDuke, an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) activist, economist, and author, has devoted her life to advocating for Indigenous control of their homelands, natural resources, and cultural practices. She combines economic and environmental approaches in her efforts to create a thriving and sustainable community for her own White Earth reservation and Indigenous populations across the country.
Learn more about LaDuke here: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/winona-laduke
Kochiyama’s civil rights work extended to the causes impacting Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Peoples, as well as Asian American communities. Kochiyama campaigned for reparations and a formal government apology for Japanese American interned during World War II. Their work became a reality in 1988, when President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act into law.
Learn more about Kochiyama here: https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/yuri-kochiyama-was-born/
At the age of 14, Avant-garde became the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion, the first Black American to hold the title. As of 2022, Avant-garde also holds three basketball-related records in the Guinness Book of World Records: the most bounce juggles in one minute with four basketballs, the most basketball bounces in 30 seconds with four basketballs, and ties of the record for most basketballs dribbled at once.
Learn more about Avant-garde here: https://kids.guinnessworldrecords.com/records/young-achievers/zaila-avant-garde