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Not another slave monument in Indy

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Much controversy and discussion have taken place with the issue regarding a sculpture of a slave that has been proposed for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

The effort to recreate yet another slave image is being led by the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF).

The Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis is against the re-creation of another slave monument anywhere in Indianapolis’ public space. This proposed “art piece,” although titled “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, One), is not bringing unity or oneness to our city. In fact, it is proving to be very divisive.

More importantly, we believe that slavery – albeit a painful page of history forced upon a people – is not a part of African-American culture.

In order to explain the discord over the proposed sculpture, we should recall that the “Cultural Trail” is made possible by a large public and private collaboration led by CICF, and the city of Indianapolis.

The effort of the Cultural Trail claims that it is devoted to building a better city – “a special undertaking that will give generations of Indianapolis residents a stronger sense of ownership and pride in their city.” However, to date most public input has been extremely limited to selected small groups and not to the general public. But public funding, in addition to some private donations, comes from federal funds that the city has devoted to public property, infrastructure amenities and other public assets to the Cultural Trail.

The Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis disagrees with the Cultural Trail’s efforts to recreate another slave image of a nameless, shirtless and shoeless African-American, this time standing alone, in Indianapolis’ public space. The African-American community of Indianapolis has a very rich culture.

The Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis supports the arts and the art community, but we do not support promoting a slave image in our public space. Nor do we support presenting any race, ethnicity or religion in a negative manner regardless if it is presented as “art” or through any other medium or public expression.

If an image of African-American life must be on public display, then surely the Curatorial Advisory Committee members are well aware of the many local and national African-American women and men of great stature and achievements. During the 1800s, African-Americans were denied entry into, and citizenship in Indiana. To try to present in 2011 a slave as the model of African-American life and achievement only deepens and saddens an important sector of our city.

African-Americans in Indianapolis have made, and continue to make, great strides in politics, business, government, religion, education, science, sports, entertainment … and the list goes on and on.

Voices against this proposed slave image have been steady and consistent, as shown by the September 2010 editorial column in the Indianapolis Recorder entitled, “Sculpture is appalling” and the October 2010 editorial published in the Indiana Herald entitled, “Controversy Surrounding Cultural Trail Project.”

Both editorials criticized the proposed newly designed sculpture depicting African-Americans as slaves. Such publicly backed, negative symbols, they reasoned, will result in many people feeling “embarrassed, victimized, offended, disappointed and frustrated.”

We, the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, unequivocally do not support and vehemently disagree with an image that may be interpreted as, or projects an image that out of many deaths and killings of slaves – that the condition of the slave is our permanent fate! The Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis believes and urges the Central Indiana Community Foundation, the city of Indianapolis, and the cultural community to reconsider the art that is to reflect our culture and inspire our future. We do not need another slave monument in Indianapolis.

Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis

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