HUWL: Breckin Sargeant, and her artwork collaboration with Black Student Leaders of La Crosse

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Jenna Dinkel, General Assignment Reporter

 A new piece of traveling artwork has been created in La Crosse. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse sophomore Breckin Sargeant teamed up with the Black Student Leaders (BSL) of La Crosse to create an empowering piece of artwork currently displayed in Larson’s General. It will later travel to the La Crosse Public Library, People’s Food Coop, and the River City Gallery.  

The group has been planning this mural for a while and teamed up with Sargeant back in November. Sargeant said, “I’m going to be really honest I was so excited about this, when they came to me, I was so excited. I drew up the final image in like 3 hours. I was like done, check. It felt like an eternity waiting to actually paint it, put it together, and have it up.” 

Sargeant was able to be involved in this project because of her internship with the group Leaders Igniting Transformation. It is a social justice-based internship where she works as a campus intern by planning events on campus. Sargeant’s boss, Laura Abellera, is involved in the La Crosse community and introduced Sargeant to the Black Student Leaders to help them with their goal of putting up a mural in La Crosse. 

Photo retrieved from Breckin Sargeant.

“We met a couple of times and talked about what they wanted the mural to look like. What they wanted it to say, the message, the vibe.” Sargeant said, “BSL does a lot of things in the La Crosse Community, such as protests. We wanted to incorporate some of the phrases they use a lot and things they are passionate about.” 

“We talked about what they experienced in their school, in terms of racism.” Breckin said, “They told me about some interactions with resource officers that were super messed up, some things that their teachers had done, basically the way they have been treated in their school, how that makes them feel, and what they want to do about it.” 

Sargeant was able to design most of the mural, however, members from BSL met with her to paint the mural in the basement of Larson’s General. “They let me be free with what I wanted it to look like, yet we created it together.” 

Sargeant said that they were able to give her good inspiration for what they envisioned and what they wanted the mural to say. They came to me saying that they wanted a mural that embodied blackness and gave a positive connotation to the Black Lives Matter movement as well as blackness in society right now.

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Sargeant said they came to a consensus on the message they wanted to get across. “We wanted to focus on the beauty and positive and light part of what they were fighting for, so that is why we focused on the Black woman in the middle and bright and interesting colors.”  

Sargeant was able to get creative with the piece, yet the BSL members had some specifics for what they wanted as well. “I came up with most of the design part. They were really specific, they wanted things like no justice no peace, we need resources not resource officers, stop criminalizing youth.” 

Sargeant said, “They had a lot of goals with what they wanted it to literally say, and then we talked together about what we wanted it to metaphorically say.” 

Sargeant said she hopes people feel empowered when they look at the artwork. “I really wanted people to equate the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle for equality in a positive and hopeful light.” Sargeant said, “I wanted people to look at the mural and be like that looks great, I like how that looks. Then look more into it and realize there is more to it. I really wanted the students’ voices to be heard.” 

Sargeant said this type of artwork is not only important in the La Crosse community but in cities all around the country. “I do think that every city in America has these systemic and personal biases, prejudice, and, in general, racism and marginalization. It is a place to start. La Crosse is representative of a lot of places in America. I think it is a good place to start and get people thinking.” She said, “There are a lot of students and people of color in La Crosse that need something to show that they are here, that we are here, and that we will be heard.” 


Photo retrieved from Breckin Sargeant.
Photo retrieved from