School mural depicts a life of love

Students of Saint Benedict the Moor School have a new role model in Mabel Grammer. They were so inspired that they painted a large mural to celebrate her life of love and service.

On Wed. October 20, Bishop David Zubik dedicated and blessed the mural at the school, which is located in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

“I thought about Mother Teresa, who also reached out in love,” Bishop Zubik told the students. “She once wrote, ‘I am but a little pencil in God’s hand writing a love letter to the world.’ That’s exactly who Mabel Grammer was, loving one person at a time.”

A Black U.S. journalist and Catholic, Grammer led a campaign to find homes for mixed-race “brown babies” of German women and African-American soldiers who were born during the occupation years in Germany following World War II. The mothers were shunned—denied work, housing and ration cards—and had to put their children in orphanages.

Grammer and her husband Oscar, an Army officer, adopted 12 of these babies, and she found homes for more than 500 others in the United States and Germany.

In telling the story, “we really focused on the aspects of what can we do in our own lives to imitate Ms. Mabel Grammer,” said Audrey Bowser, principal of Saint Benedict the Moor School. “While we may not be adopting orphan children, we can still make that difference in our lives and shine our light for all to see.”

Born in Arkansas around 1915, the granddaughter of slaves, Grammer moved to Pittsburgh to attend beauty school, achieving her ultimate goal of saving enough money to go to college.  She wrote for the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, crusading for racial equality and economic opportunity.

In 1950, she married Oscar Grammer, a warrant officer with the U.S. Army stationed in Germany, and traveled to Lourdes and other shrines. She met with Catholic nuns who invited her to visit a local orphanage, and started what she called the Brown Baby Plan.

Pope Paul VI bestowed the Papal Humanitarian Award on the Grammers in 1968.

Mabel Grammer died in 2002.

The mural was painted by six students of Saint Benedict the Moor School, who are also part of ACH Clear Pathways, a nonprofit that provides enriching and new experiences to youth and families through visual and performing arts.

The young artists gave a presentation on Grammer’s work and life, noting in one slide, “It doesn’t matter where you start, it is how you finish. How will you make a difference in the life of others, too?”

Mabel Grammer with some of the children she helped to adopt. AP photo.