New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell unveiled a potentially racist statue in honor of Juneteenth this week.
The new statue presented by the mayor was a giant Afro Pick, a tool used to pick and puff up tight, curly hair. On top of the afro pick is a large black power fist, a symbol often associated with Black separatist movements like the Black Panthers. Then, in the center of the piece, seemingly to balance out the fist, is a large peace sign.
The artwork was placed prominently in Gallier Hall, New Orleans’ former City Hall, in Lafayette Square and was part of a $7.2 million art buy in honor of the holiday.
According to Mayor Cantrell, the giant sculpture is “very fitting for this time” and represents the “struggles, fights, and protests of 200+ years”.
Despite the enthusiasm of the New Orleans Mayor, many online were not nearly as happy about the piece.
One user, for example, criticized the fact that the city spent $7.2 Million on public art while their police force is suffering and crime in the city is on the rise.
A Black female performance artist named Malynda Hale also weighed in, saying that she supports the city’s initiative to fund and promote Black artists, however she said an “Afro pic ain’t it.”
Multiple other users also noted its similarity to the prop used in the Mel Brooks film Spaceballs, which the villains had been given to “comb” the desert.
Juneteenth is the celebration of the day that General Order No. 3 was announced by Union Army General Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas. Texas was the furthest state into the Confederacy, and therefore was the last to receive the order following the end of the Civil War.
Most people support celebrating Juneteenth. It was a historic day for our country and slavery was an absolute abomination. Still, the sculpture of choice by New Orleans is questionable at best. What do you think of using a hair pick to represent the ending of slavery? Do you have any ideas for better sculptures to celebrate Juneteenth?