Facing History and Making History

As a history major with a fellowship at Facing History and Ourselves, Lamisa Hasan ’18 might seem out of place among a group of her peers working in arts organizations across the city. But her story is decidedly one that reflects the beauty of a liberal arts education. In her role at Facing History, she is managing the Upstanders mural project.

Facing History, working in tandem with the UrbanArt Commission, plans to select an artist to cover an exterior wall of its downtown offices with the faces of those who have made Memphis what it is today. Nominations for these “upstanders” were taken during February and March and were open to the public. The organization hopes to have the mural finished by year’s end.

Through each step in the process, Hasan has been there, working with the mural steering committee, monitoring the nomination process, and assisting Facing History’s Memphis Director Marti Tippens Murphy ’86 with the project. In fact, the third major player in the mural project is Lauren Kennedy ’08, executive director of UrbanArt, making these alumnae a real power trio.

As a middle school student, Hasan took an elective course taught by Facing History and Ourselves and in high school belonged to the Facing History club. As a college student, she reached out to the organization and worked there first as an intern and then through a Rhodes fellowship. Her main job is as Student Leadership Group liaison, working with high school students involved in Facing History groups.

“We are working against problems of stereotyping, bigotry, and racism,” she says.

Working in social justice was what drew Murphy to the organization, as well. She majored in international studies at Rhodes, then got a master’s degree at Cal State Northridge. She became just the third employee at the Los Angeles office of Facing History.

“Facing History was exactly what I had discovered in my graduate work—that intersection of history, identity, and civic participation,” says Murphy. “I never thought that I would stay with Facing History forever, but I grew with the organization, and here I am today.”

A Memphis native, she returned in 2012 to run the Memphis office. Her work with Hasan has reconnected her with Rhodes.

“I have been really impressed with her,” Murphy says. “I can just give her general guidelines for something like a letter and she’ll come back with it to get my input. I’ll say, ‘It’s perfect. Send it out.’ She just gets it. She understands tone. That’s an underappreciated skill.”

—Lynn Conlee