As one of his last acts in office, Mayor Kasim Reed received a report from an advisory committee regarding Confederate monuments on Atlanta’s public property. The advisory committee had been formed in August 2017 due to the aftermath of Charlottesville, Virginia. I personally attended a couple of the advisory meetings myself.
Mayor Reed charged the committee with developing recommendations for handling city-owned Confederate-related monuments and street names. One of the marquee-signature changes would be renaming “Confederate Avenue” to something more appropriate for the “city too busy to hate.”
On July 2, 2018, I contacted the Georgia Department of Transportation and was informed that Confederate Avenue is still officially and legally identified as Confederate Avenue. It would appear that the new administration helmed by Keisha Lance-Bottoms has not picked up the work that Reed initiated in his final days in office.
Confession: I actively supported Candidate Lance-Bottoms during the run-up to the November 2017 election and was extremely jubilant when she achieved an 800-vote-margin of victory over Mary Norwood during the December 2017 runoff.
So, “I love me ‘some’ Keisha,” AND, I understood that Lance-Bottoms would need time to get her cabinet in order and make decisions about the formation of her administration.
However I was quite surprised this past week when I learned that Mayor Lance-Bottoms (with much fanfare) had cut a deal with the local NFL hosting committee to create artistic murals leading up to the 2019 SuperBowl in Atlanta.
“It is really important that we have these lasting reminders in our city, of obviously what the civil rights movement means to Atlanta, but also what arts and culture means,” she said during a Thursday morning press conference.
Those lasting reminders will come in the form of “Off the Wall,” an initiative wherein nine artists will create up to 30 public murals related to civil rights and social justice movements. The project is a partnership between the city, the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee and WonderRoot,
– Becca J. G. Godwin of the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Sure, this is great news–the murals are a nice touch and beautiful tribute–but what about Confederate Avenue, Madame Mayor? As the saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Are the murals just another attempt to contextualize history by putting this art near streets named in honor of genocidal war criminals who fought to keep an entire race enslaved? Are these murals just another attempt to sugarcoat the hate?
The murals remind me of past efforts to put a “freedom” bell dedicated to MLK on top of Stone Mountain while leaving its Confederate carvings intact. A bell (or a mural) doesn’t erase the fact that you’re giving a place of honor to Confederate iconography that inspires hate. To clean the slate, you must remove the hate.
Furthermore, the optics don’t look good for the current mayor appearing deferential to the NFL (especially with the NFL’s current ownership issues). It doesn’t matter if the SuperBowl brings $20 gazillion dollars into the local economy—Thou shalt not sell your soul.
With the ongoing controversy of NFL owners squelching their players’ freedom of speech and right to protest injustices in this society, the lead up to the 2019 Superbowl will inevitably be fraught with tension.
Do these murals compensate for NFL owners bowing down to President Trump as far as national-anthem protests by its players are concerned? Is it acceptable for the Lance-Bottoms Administration to be running cover for the NFL?
International celebrity and local resident, King-of-the-South Rapper T.I. has already announced his intention to boycott the 2019 SuperBowl in Atlanta.
Isn’t it bad enough that the NFL fails to fairly compensate former players who are suffering early-onset dementia and committing suicide…and then we have stories like those of Kellen Winslow Jr. that need to be confronted? Are these murals a purifying agent for all of the bullsh*t that the NFL foisted upon us about its liability for concussions?
BottomLine: As we approach the first anniversary of Charlottesville, Atlanta would be well advised to complete the work of removing symbols of hate from places of honor and distinction in our communities. Do not tarry…Don’t wait…Do not sell out to the NFL.