Last week I wrote about a statue of a pregnant Black woman, her golden fist raised to the sky in defiance of Baltimore’s Confederate monuments and in the minds of many, the White supremacist mores they symbolize.
The statue crafted by artist Pablo Machioli in protest of Confederate monuments in Baltimore was defaced with the words “nigger” and “White power.
She was placed in protest in front of the Lee-Jackson monument in Wyman Dell. Less than a day later she was unceremoniously removed by Baltimore police and Baltimore City park rangers and relocated to an out of the way storage facility in Druid Hill Park. And less than a day after that, she was taken to the Copycat Building, an artist enclave near Midtown.
That’s when the White supremacist attitudes for which she was crafted to confront manifested in the actions of someone who scrawled, “nigger,” and “white power,” on her Black body.
Further, poems posted near the statue’s location and around the building in reaction to the racist vandalism, were torn down and some urinated upon.
So, much for life in post racial America. Welcome to life in Baltimore.
“To me it was very empowering to see that statue,” Nakia Brown said during an interview on, “First Edition,” on October 9. Brown is the artist who posted her poetry near the location of the statue inside the Copycat building (where she’s been living for about a month) and in other areas of the artist enclave protesting the racist graffiti, only to have it torn down and urinated on.
“There is a stigma within the artist community, which is representative of the greater community. There is a strong segregation; there are Black arts communities, there are White art communities. And the Copycat has been known, at least in the Black arts community, that people don’t want to live there,” Brown added.
Of course, Brown’s insight on Baltimore segregation is incredibly cogent topically and historically.
Baltimore earned its notorious tag of, “Mobtown,” in the mid-1800’s because of the city’s large population of lawless hooligans, all too eager to wield mob violence against any who opposed them. Immigrants and Blacks, particularly free Blacks who outnumbered slaves 8 to 1 during the decade before the Civil War were frequent targets. Further, free Blacks lived in constant fear of being kidnapped and sold into slavery just to the south in Richmond by adherents to the Mobtown mentality.
When the Lee-Jackson monument was erected in May of 1948, more than 3,000 people attended the ceremony including the Governor of Maryland, William Preston Lane, Jr., and Baltimore Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro. Baltimore was (and still is) one of the most segregated cities in America and in 1948 the city’s Black population was in the vanguard of the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, and had been for decades.
The installation of this monument to two of the greatest icons of the Confederacy was perhaps a not so subtle reminder back then to “uppity Negroes,” to remember their place.
The same message has seemingly been transmitted over the generations to 2015 in the form of the words nigger and White power emblazoned upon the Black body of an anti-Confederacy, anti-oppression artwork.
“I live in Baltimore and I’ve been suffering oppression, police brutality and all that has happened here I feel it in my own skin,” said Pablo Machioli, the artist who created the anti Confederate statue. Machioli, a native of Uruguay, sees the creation of the statue as his contribution to this transcendent time in Baltimore’s history, despite the racist machinations of one individual or those who support their actions.
“For me, this was an opportunity for me to connect more in a community where I live to use the tools I have, the creativity I have in the creation of positive change,” he said.
“This person who did this (defacing statue) has a lot of issues, they have a lot of hate.” Machioli added.
Despite Baltimore’s racist infrastructure; covert, overt and institutionalized, I still believe in the resilient people of this great but deeply flawed American city. And I’m not alone.
“Out of chaos comes order,” Brown said. “We’ve seen lots of people come together; Black, White, Asian, all types of people who realize this is wrong and that in this space…we need to be able to come together.”
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 pm on WEAA 88.9.