Product of Donaldsonville mural removed
In 2014, Daryl Comery began the Product of Donaldsonville campaign in response to a series of violent crimes that were happening within the community. Instead of having people look at Donaldsonville in a negative light or a city of crime, he decided to make Product of Donaldsonville something people could look to for guidance and inspiration.
It was to be a reminder that the community and the people within it are striving to do positive things.
The mural for Product of Donaldsonville was painted in Lowery Middle School by Tamerick Zachary during the Christmas break of 2016. The first person to be painted onto the mural, as a positive figure, was LSU's gymnastics Coach D-D Breaux, who is originally from Donaldsonville.
"Coach D-D was very surprised to be on the mural and didn't expect it," Comery said.
The second face painted onto the mural was Coach Alvin Thomas. Coach Thomas played collegiate football for LSU, served as an Ascension Parish Councilman, and both as a coach and an educator at Lowery Middle.
Coach Reginald "Duck" Brown was the third face to join the mural. Coach Brown is a retired Donaldsonville employee who spent more than 40 years of his life mentoring and coaching kids within the community.
"We loved the support Coach Brown provided to the kids in the community, and he was experiencing some health decline, so we decided to honor his doings by adding him to the mural before his health got worse," Comery said.
Finally, Comery himself was added to the mural by the schools doing. "I remember being in the building, seeing my family, as well as faculty and staff members. The school band was playing, our dance team dancing, and a sea of gold shirts were all there supporting me with the unveiling of my face on the mural. It was an amazing feeling.
"The mural became a sign of motivation for students. They could look to it when they needed inspiration, for example, if they wanted to become a coach or a principal. Many of the students have even said they hope that their face would make it onto the mural one day."
Unfortunately, many of these students won't have that opportunity since the mural was taken down by the Ascension Parish School Board at the start of August, before students are set to begin school again.
"As we transition to the new principal of Lowery Middle School, the school board decided to take down the mural for the transition," Public Information Officer for the School Board Jackie Tisdell said. "Product of Donaldsonville is a proprietary organization, and not something that Lowery Middle School owns. We have a lot of respect for the young man who painted the mural, too, and did not do it to hurt anyone's feelings."
Since Comery is on a professional sabbatical, or an extended break from a job to enhance academics, Lowery Middle School had to find another principal, being Paul Sampson.
Many people aren't pleased with the removal since it became a tradition to Lowery Middle School. It also helped change the perception of Donaldsonville after the series of crimes that occurred, because the faces upon the mural were positive people in the community that citizens could look to.
Comery wishes the mural could have stayed so kids could continue to have a positive faces to look to in his absence.
Follow Darian on Twitter: @dariangshark