A Street Mural Examines Modern Slavery, photo essay by Regan Good
In the historic neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, murals exist to keep the community together– and to help it remember. Many murals in this neighborhood depict images of the young black men who died here in the 80s and 90s of gun violence: Peanut, Kevin, Louis, Shorty, to name a few. Other murals of African-American leaders like Malcolm X and MLK Jr. dot the neighborhood. One entire block is given over to a row of six foot tall, brightly painted portraits of leaders like Stokely Carmichael, Nelson Mandela, and Angela Davis. But I am interested in a small mural that was painted by a different artist on a pair of driveway gates that interrupt the cinder block wall. This image is of two figures one on top of the other. On top: A white man in overalls preaches from a Big Book open on his knee. He could very well be a slave owner and cotton farmer. Underneath this bellowing figure, is a young contemporary African-American man wearing a Moorehouse College sweatshirt. He stands, arms akimbo, crucified; he holds books in each of his hands where the nails should be. What does this mean? The complexity is staggering. Does it telegraph that African-Americans are still enslaved by the white man’s religion? That their ancestors still are required to adopt the white man’s ways, his God, his middle-class values? Does it underscore the busted American Dream for African-Americans? Despite the contributions made by the people whose portraits surround this potent image, our Preacher/Moorehouse student mural reminds us that slavery remains the bedrock of our national perversion and that contemporary African-Americans remain societally enslaved.
(by Regan Good)