he City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, of the Grammy Award-winning band The Roots, today announced ASpire, a brand new mural project celebrating the life of Shawn L. White, Ph.D. Dr. White was a community leader, father, and educator who created educational health initiatives on HIV/AIDS as well as sexually-transmitted diseases aimed at young African American men in Philadelphia, before he passed away suddenly in April 2013. A series of workshops, programs, and community paint days will accompany the creation of the mural. ASpire will be installed at 2059 Dickenson Street in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Philadelphia.
The workshop topics will include Personal Responsibility (Awareness of HIV/AIDS and Sexually-Transmitted Diseases, as well as Conflict Resolution and Anti-Violence); Wellness (Holistic Health Promotion), and Refuge (Affirming Oneself Positively, Defining Personal Goals, Thoughtful Decision-Making). The mural will be created in spring and summer 2014 and is scheduled to be dedicated in October 2014, during Mural Arts Month.
“Shawn was a long-time friend, and we feel his loss tremendously,” stated Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, MC of the Grammy Award-winning band, The Roots. “After the Mural Arts Program created the beautiful mural honoring The Roots, I decided to join their Board of Directors and help them tell more stories of great Philadelphians.”
“Tariq recently joined our Board of Directors, and he implored us to pay tribute to his friend Shawn L. White,” said Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Mural Arts Program. “The Mural Arts Program is pleased to work with so many people who are passionate about changing the community, and to use public art to continue the spread of important messages.”
About Shawn L. White, Ph.D.
Shawn L. White, Ph.D. passed away suddenly on April 6, 2013, from hypertension. Dr. White was born and raised in South Philadelphia and stayed true to his neighborhood roots, becoming a fixture in the Point Breeze section of the area. Sports and music were his early callings, earning him both a collegiate football scholarship and a record deal as an MC and producer with the hip hop group, Divine Beings in 1994. Throughout his musical career, he worked with artists such as Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of The Roots, super producer and musician Larry Gold, Kenny Whitehead, Beanie Sigel (helping to launch his career), and more.
In 2004, Dr. White earned a Master of Human Services (MHS) from Lincoln University and in 2011, his Ph.D. from Cappella University where his studies focused on analyzing and evaluating HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases risk among young African American men. Concurrent with his studies, he worked in social service with the Youth Outreach Community Awareness Program (YOACAP) as a cast member, peer educator, and youth trainer for HIV/AIDS awareness. His sixteen-year affiliation with the organization kept him face-to-face with at-risk communities who were fighting the battle against HIV and AIDS.
In 2009, Dr. White began his work with the University of Pennsylvania as co-chair of the HIV prevention research division’s community advisory board and the HIV vaccine study-working group. Shawn led SHAPE UP: Barbers Building Better Brothers. This health promotions program targeted young African-American men who socialized in barbershop settings, often a community gathering and ‘safe’ space in urban communities.
While juggling full-time commitments to health awareness programs, Shawn continued to work on his love of music, partnering with friend and musician JaRon Burnett, to form the PHREMEN Music Group. PHREMEN produces music for various uses in the music industry and is also home to the PHREMEN Audio Studio Academy, which gives young people access to state-of-the-art facilities, instruction, field trips, mentorship, and more. Intertwined with the fun-learning model is the promotion of HIV/STI awareness and conflict resolution.
In his mid-thirties, Shawn was diagnosed with hypertension. His friends and family knew of his condition but no one, not even Shawn, knew how severe his condition was. On April 6, 2013, despite his healthy appearance, Shawn L. White succumbed to his condition and passed away.