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Graffiti artist paying tribute to her culture while living out her father's dream

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Posted at 8:16 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 12:32:00-04

MILWAUKEE, Wisc. (TMJ4) - Nyia Luna, a graffiti artist, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, keeps her late father close.

"​My Papi, he's right here actually," she said as she pointed to her necklace engraved with his face.

Experiencing his death at the young age of 13, she grew to understand his legacy and process his dreams.

Tomás Garrett-Rosas dropped out of high school and later joined a gang. Luna said her father grew up spray painting walls throughout his neighborhood.

Rosas eventually turned his life. He earned a doctorate in urban studies and worked as a professor at UW-Whitewater.

Luna never dreamed she could be a legal street artist and get paid for her work. There was a stereotype that came with graffiti, and she was discouraged by her father.

"He always told me, like you're never gonna make a career out of it, it's not gonna work, and I think he did that because that's what he was told," she said.

Luna is making it work. She was selected to paint activist Dolores Huerta on the wall in Milwaukee.

The opportunity came full circle for Luna, as the building was one that Luna's father once painted on.

"It's surreal," she said.

The mural is intended to inspire women.

"In this community, it’s needed because throughout the Cesar Chavez district, it’s all about Cesar Chavez and so they want representation for the other half," Luna said.

Dolores Huerta coined the famous phrase, 'Si, Se Puede,' which translates to 'Yes, we can.'

Huerta worked alongside Cesar Chavez fighting for Hispanic Immigrant farm workers.

"We just really need to really give thought to who's preparing our food and what they have to go through," Luna said.

Currently, at the age of 91, Huerta is still fighting for Hispanic immigrant agriculture workers all over the country.

This story was originally reported by Jessica Madhukar on TMJ4.com.