A local group calls the city’s reasons for planning to scrub a civil rights mural “shallow” and “mystifying.”
The Downtown mural, painted on a garage at the corner of Main and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, depicts a civil rights timeline with historical figures like Ida B. Wells.
After the city received complaints over the historical accuracy of the mural, as well as its inclusion of the phrase “Black lives matter,” city officials made tentative plans to scrub the mural.
But, groups like the Midtown Action Coalition expressed concern over the justification for removing the mural.
In a letter to Paul Young, director of the city’s Housing and Community Development division, Gordon Alexander, organizer of the coalition, said the reasons given are “downright mystifying.”
The full letter reads, in part:
“This mural is quite popular and the reasons given for its possible removal seem shallow, and downright mystifying. You state that some persons have expressed concern about the ‘facial expressions’? What does that mean exactly? In response to the concerns for its ‘historical accuracy,’ let’s not forget this is a mural on a garage, not a statue in a civic plaza or a bronze reproduction of a famous event in Memphis history. We believe the pressure is coming from those citizens who took offense at the ‘Black Lives Matter’ inscription. What is their viewpoint? That black lives don’t matter?
“We may have misinterpreted your comments and if so, you have the opportunity to set the record straight. This has all the signs of a miscarriage of justice based on a few, dare I say it, white people who live outside the Parkways.”
After more concerns like this emerged, Ursula Madden, the city’s chief communications officer said Monday that the mayor decided against scrubbing the artwork: “After this issue was brought to Mayor Strickland’s attention, he quickly decided that we are not removing the mural.“
Commissioned to a part of the Memphis Heritage Trail, the mural was created by Michael Roy and Derrick Dent in 2016.