The woman painted on Kimberly Tatuem’s classroom door stares fiercely into the hallway at N.A.C.A. Freedom and Democracy Academy II, a public charter middle/high school school in Northeast Baltimore.
Her 3-D curly afro, made of rolled black construction paper, spills off the doorway. She wears a choker made of kente cloth. And her dress is covered with the faces of prominent black figures, including Baltimore natives Thurgood Marshall and Billie Holiday who get prime placement.
Tatuem snapped some pictures of her elaborate door decoration on Feb. 7 and posted them on Instagram and Facebook, noting in her caption that the display was in honor of Black History Month. The photos have since gone viral, with more than 27,000 Facebook shares and imitation door displays popping up across the country.
“It’s spread so far across the country,” said Tatuem, who teaches American government and history. “The kids have been so excited to see it go viral.”
Tatuem has seen similar door decor spring up online in dozens of other classrooms, including in Texas, Georgia and Florida. She and her daughter put together a YouTube tutorial so that other teachers could replicate in their schools.
Tatuem was first inspired by her competitive streak: The NACA II principal announced a door-decorating contest, and Tatuem loves to win. (The winner won’t be announced until Friday, but it’s safe to say no other doors have achieved such viral fame.)
Beyond the competition, Tatuem, who has been teaching at the school for eight years, said she was driven by the desire to create an art piece that would make her students feel valued and seen. The majority of NACA II students are African-American.
“It’s about encouraging them to love themselves,” she said. “The display encourages them to be comfortable in their own skin.”