Scores of New Orleanians gathered Tuesday (July 19) evening to celebrate the unveiling of the Henry Tribute Mural — the passion project of businessman Troy Henry, who commissioned the mural.
Henry called the mural his family’s legacy as it pays homage Black excellence in New Orleans, with words and renderings that iconic locations, such as the Lower Ninth Ward, where the Henry family originates; Xavier University, where his parents as students; and St. Augustine High, where Troy Henry and his brothers, Ruston and and Sterling, Jr., attended school. The mural also includes likenesses of Henry family members and other notable New Orleanians.
Joined by his brothers, their mother Elvira Day Henry, along with other family, friends and community leaders, Henry celebrated unveiling of the building-wide mural that includes depictions of him, his brother Ruston; their parents Sterling, Sr. and Elvira Henry; their grandfather Clarence “Chink” Henry; culinary legend Leah Chase; the late Nancy Parker, a local television news anchor killed in a 2019 plane crash; Mayor LaToya Cantrell; and a few of the Henry’s Pontchartrain Park neighbors, including Troy’s childhood friend, actor Wendell Pierce, and music pioneer, the late Dave Bartholomew.
“What I wanted was a discussion recognizing key individuals and institutions, including events that help shape our businesses,” said Henry, who operates Henry Consulting, LLC, and is part of the owner of WBOK 1230 AM. “I’m grateful to the artist, Kentrice Schexnayder, for capturing the vision and making it come alive.”
Henry says the finished project was the result of Schexnayder taking the time to talk with him and members of his family as they shared history, photos and other documents that helped her to bring the mural into focus.
Henry says including Mayor Cantrell was significant as it honored her efforts while she served on the City Council, adding that he faced detractors when he sought, several years ago, to develop properties in the 1600 block of Tchoupitoulas, including the site of Sterling Fresh Market, the convenience store and gas station he owns. The mural is on a building next to Sterling Fresh Market. Despite opposition to his plans, Troy Henry recalls then District B Councilwoman Cantrell fighting in favor of his efforts to develop the property.
“If it weren’t for her, we probably wouldn’t be here in this space,” he said.
To be sure, the Henry family has had a significant impact on New Orleans. Troy Henry’s grandfather, “Chink” Henry, became the leader of the largest Black longshoreman’s union in the south when he was elected president of ILA Local 1419 in 1954. As a union and civil rights leader, Chink Henry fought for fair wages, medical benefits, compensation and to have jobs previously reserved for White longshoremen only opened to his membership. He also widely advocated for voter registration, with ILA 1419 becoming the only union in the country to have a fully time Voter Registration School to instruct its members and the community on voting.
Chink Henry’s son and Troy Henry’s father, Sterling Henry, Sr., continued the family’s legacy when he became the first black pharmacist at the Circle Food Store, hiring the first black cashiers for the store, effectively integrating the local landmark, which still operates today at St. Bernard and N. Claiborne avenues. It is also where Ruston Henry Sr., a pharmacist like his father, operates one of his H & W Pharmacy locations.
Troy Henry says he is proud of the mural and hopes that it will be a starting point for others to reflect on the impact of Black New Orleanians on the development of the city.
“It was important to recognize a lot of people who are known and other people, who are not as well known, for their impact on the culture and economy of New Orleans,” he says.