By The Associated Press
Mercer University is facing a backlash from some students and professors after the university’s president had a mural that included civil rights icon Rosa Parks and the school’s first Black student removed.
University officials say the mural on the side of a building in Macon was not intended to be permanent. It was painted over on April 28.
“The Mercer Village mural was commissioned and funded by the College Hill Corridor Commission several years ago as a ‘pop-up’ public art demonstration project,” the school said in a statement to the The Telegraph.
But a professor who brought the artist behind the mural to Macon said neither she nor the artist, Joerael Numina, heard the term “pop up” in reference to it.
“The overwhelming response has been that people are baffled and angry especially because the administration hasn’t given any sort of satisfactory response as to how the decision was made or why it was made,” said Natalie J. Bourdon, associate professor of anthropology and women’s and gender studies at Mercer.
Numina said the decision to remove the mural showed “disrespect for the Black community and marginalized people.”
Numina created the mural in 2017. In addition to Parks and Sam Oni, Mercer’s first Black student, it featured former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and abolitionist and physician Martin Delany.
It was the last project in a series funded by a grant intended to create public art in the College Hill Corridor area, said Craig Coleman, a Mercer art professor. The project cost about $6,500, and Numina worked on it for two weeks in addition to giving lectures and holding a workshop, according to Coleman.
“To me, it seems like this has the potential to end up being some kind of odd mistake because I can’t imagine any other reason why,” he said.
In an emailed response to a student, Mercer President William Underwood said he always expected the space the mural occupied to be used by other artists.
“I am hopeful that future artworks featured there will make important contributions to campus and to the surrounding community,” Underwood said.