“Blank Slate: Hope for a New America,” by Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, was on display on June 29 in Southeast, D.C. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

For one day only, people had the chance to flock to Southeast, D.C. for a moment to experience a mobile art installation that reminds audiences of African American’s trials, resilience and the continued fight for racial justice.  On June 29, Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo’s statue, “Blank Slate: Hope For a New America,” was on display in front of the We Act Radio studio, 1918 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave, S.E.  The statues’ single day in the nation’s capital, which is happening in part due to the support of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, is part of a tour that allows the piece to make its way to major cities important to the Black community and narrative.

Akoto-Bamfo, who is renowned for his artwork shedding light on the Black experience, created “Blank Slate: Hope for a New America,” as a way of countering the more than 1,800 Confederate monuments and symbols that still remain on public display throughout the United States.  Further, in a day where people still must remind the masses that, “Black Lives Matter,” the Ghanaian artist hoped to continue racial justice conversations, demonstrations and action to end the devaluing of African Americans in the United States.

As opposed to many Confederate monuments, where the figure is standing on what Akoto-Bamfo calls, “pedestals of privilege,” “Blank Slate: Hope for a New America,” features four Black figures standing on all they have had to survive and thrive- each other. The figures include: a slave ancestor, a lynched union soldier martyr, a struggling mother activist and a baby, who is included to represent the next generation.

The mother atop the statue is holding a “Blank Slate,” protest sign, allowing for an interactive experience, in which audiences can virtually add what they think the sign should read by engaging with the #BlankSlateHope social media campaign. 

“Blank is the slate that we write on, but we see through. I sculpt yes, but the statement is not my own.  The statement is for the people, the African American people, the Black people, and people who want to speak up against the tradition of injustice.  That is why the slate is left blank,” Akoto-Bamfo said in a statement submitted to the AFRO.

Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, sculptor of the interactive mobile art installation “Blank Slate: Hope for a New America.” (Courtesy Photo)

At the D.C. tour phrases of hope and a fight for justice such as “Free-ish,” and other messages for racial equality were displayed for audiences to interact with and witness.

We Act Radio tweeted a photo of the statue holding the “Free-ish,” slate, with a message of their own: “#CriticalRaceTheory is Dismantling #WhiteSupremacy. #dosomething.”

In addition to the messages of equality, Akoto-Bamfo hopes to inspire healing in the nation and emphasize a need for more Black art by Black artists in all spaces.

Traveling on a flat-bed truck throughout the United States, “Blank Slate: Hope for a New America,” debuted in Louisville on June 2, and will continue touring cities with prominent African American history and communities, including Chicago and Selma before remaining in Birmingham, Alabama until March 2022.  The statue will then find a permanent residence, which will be decided after a multi-city bidding process.

For more information on “Blank Slate: Hope for a New America,” visit: http://www.blankslatemonument.com/.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor