A new mural on the Westside has immortalized the lifes work of Dr. Laura Banks-Reed.

She was a native Tucsonan and civil rights activist, helping change public education in southern Arizona.

Dr. Banks was an educator and believed education opened many opportunities and many doors,” Magdalena Verdugo, the YWCA Arizona CEO said.

The mural was commissioned by the Tucson YWCA, Verdugo says they are launching a new program in her honor.

It’s called the Dr. Laura Banks Reed Center for Gender and Racial Equity.

The center for gender and racial equity is going to house our education and training component, our community engagement, and our policy and advocacy efforts, Verdugo said.

Muralist Jessica Gonzales said incorporating Dr. Banks-Reed’s life work into the mural was her main inspiration.

She served many years as an activist and was an advocate for people of color and women,” Gonzales said. I put the saguaros and the mountains in there because shes a Tucson native and from Barrio Anita.

Victor Bowleg is heading up the new program for the YWCA. He says when he walks into work and sees the mural every day, he feels a renewed sense of purpose.

I feel empowered,” Verdugo said. “When I see the young scholar here it takes me back to Lorraine Hansbury, you know to be young, gifted and black.

Dr. Banks-Reed spent her life advocating for equality. Jennifer O’Neill, a YWCA board member says even today this advocacy needs to continue.

She believes the mural will help future generations pick up where others have left off.

When they come in, theyll feel the energy, and theyll feel the call,” O’Neill said. “The call to speak, to use their education, the call to move forward, that we dont give up.

The YWCA will have an opening ceremony for the center coming up in May.

Theyre also giving muralist Jessica Gonzales the Social Justice in the Arts Award for her work on the mural.

The award will be announced at the upcoming Womens Leadership Conference on March 8.