Seniors Memorialize Classmate With Mural, Set to Be Finished in Spring

The designated site of a memorial mural for Kamal Nashid. Photos by Simon Kessler.

As graduation for the class of 2023 approaches, some seniors told the Bit they have felt that not enough has been done to honor their former classmate Kamal Nashid since his death in the summer of 2019. With the help of a group of seniors, the school is in the process of designing a memorial mural in the lower/middle school (LMS).

As part of the construction of the new LMS building, the school dedicated a balcony, located on the third floor, to Nashid. The greenery-filled balcony became a part of the LMS building plans after his death. 

“I’m really grateful for what the school has done to honor him with the terrace and with the mural,” eighth-grader Jibril Nashid, Kamal’s younger brother, told the Bit. “It means a lot to my family.”

According to senior Ava Blum, one of the artists, the mural will measure 9.5 x 17.5 feet and will be located indoors by the entrance to the balcony. Director of Community Engagement & Experiential Learning Leigh Tait, who is helping organize the project, said someone suggested the idea (she couldn’t remember who) early in the construction process of the LMS but it didn’t come to fruition; Tait brought the idea to the class of 2023 last year at a class meeting.

The designers and primary artists, along with Blum, are seniors Emery Jackson, Grey Papageorgiou, Maya Raman and Elly Robinson, all of whom knew Nashid. Current fifth-graders will also be included in the process—the seniors plan to ask LMS art teachers to create stencils that the fifth-graders can use—since the mural is located by most of their classrooms. The designers, all volunteers who attended several interest meetings last year, have gathered input from other seniors as well as the Nashid family. 

According to Blum, the Nashid family suggested clouds, to depict a peaceful environment, and images of Thanksgiving—one of the family’s most meaningful traditions. They also suggested a saxophone, a track and symbols of his Islamic faith, all of which will be included. Some of his poetry may also be integrated into the mural design. 

Nashid was “an integral part of our class,” senior Pilar Holder said, and an incredibly supportive classmate. According to Holder, who ran track with Nashid, he would wait on the sidelines of races cheering on his teammates with his “huge smile.” 

Senior Kofi Pobee, one of Nashid’s closest friends, said that in addition to track, Nashid enjoyed playing football and soccer. Like Holder, he mentioned Nashid’s smile: “Whenever he smiled, he would always make everyone else smile.”

Nashid was interested in poetry, too. Blum, who was in his eighth-grade English class, said she “vividly remembers a beautiful poem he recited for a class presentation.” 

In addition to the mural, the GDS community has organized to remember Nashid with an annual five-kilometer run through Rock Creek Park, starting and ending at Pierce Mill. Holder organized the first Run for Kamal in 2021, and the second one this year, in memory of his love for running. 

The race this year on Sept. 25 had a $30 suggested entrance fee, and all proceeds went to the Hopper Financial Aid Fund at the request of the Nashid family. Holder hopes that future classes will keep the run alive even after this year’s seniors have graduated. 

At the beginning of this year’s Run for Kamal, Holder and senior Bryan Chapman gave short speeches honoring Nashid and thanking everyone who made the event possible. 

Pobee said he feels that the school has not done enough to honor Nashid. Although the terrace was a nice gesture, he said, it’s inaccessible to high schoolers and “it feels like they just put his name on the terrace but aren’t letting people enjoy what it’s there for.” One needs a faculty key card to access the balcony.

Pobee said he is concerned that the mural will not accurately capture who Nashid was. “Something that irked me and my friends was the fact that people who didn’t really know him were chipping in to what they think should be on the memorial,” he said. 

“While we noted down ideas that the LMS students suggested, we intentionally created the mural’s design based on elements that his closest family (parents and closest friends specifically) wanted us to include,” Blum wrote to the Bit in an email. “Any input from those who didn’t know him as well was used for smaller details, like considering the composition of the piece .

The Kamal Nashid Terrace in the lower/middle school.

The artists are close to a final draft of the mural design but are still in the process of refining it. They have been meeting regularly with Art Department Chair Michelle Cobb and Leigh Tait to discuss the design. 

Blum said the artists’ goal is to finish the mural right after spring break, or by the end of the school year at the latest.

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