Philadelphia may have devolved into a crime-ridden, drug-infested hellscape, but at least a white guy won’t be sculpting Harriet Tubman again — not for the City of Brotherly Love’s City Hall, anyway.
When Wesley Wofford’s nine-foot-tall statue of the abolitionist — “Harriet Tubman: The Journey to Freedom” — was unveiled as a temporary installment in front of City Hall last year, plenty of black community leaders praised his tribute.
So, it probably shouldn’t have been surprising when the city reached out to the North Carolina artist to create a permanent statue for the spot.
But Wofford is white, and suddenly that made his unquestionable talent less attractive to Philly activists who argued that the city should have held an open competition so black artists could have a shot at sculpting the public art piece.
Community engagement meetings were held, and some residents “talked about the inequity of the commission being ‘just given to him,'” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Textile artist Dee Jones was “traumatized” by the city’s choice of Wofford.
“As an artist, it’s hurtful and it is traumatizing,” Jones told city officials. “If it was an open call, and Wesley was chosen, it would be fine. But because the process wasn’t open, that’s the big issue.”
Black community health organizer and physician Michelle Strongfields urged Wofford to “resign this commission and allow the process to begin anew.”
The Celebrating the Legacy of Nana Harriet Tubman Committee put its activists to work creating an online petition and organizing a letter-writing campaign demanding an open-call process.
Wofford withdrew and an open call for artists was launched.
Kelly Lee, Philadelphia’s chief cultural officer and the executive director of Creative Philly, admitted on Monday that “it was the public’s advocacy that made us pivot from direct commission and seek open call.”
In other words, the woke mob won.
Wofford was out, and, after the city’s African American Statue Advisory Committee — of which members of Tubman’s family are a part — weighed in, Alvin Pettit’s 14-foot bronze statue of Tubman as a Civil War scout, titled “A Higher Power: The Call of a Freedom Fighter” was chosen.
Pettit’s statue “portrays Tubman as a military commander, known for leading 150 Black Union soldiers on the Combahee Ferry Raid in South Carolina,” The Inquirer reports.
Tubman will be depicted as praying, a rifle slung over her back.
Given Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s repeated cries for gun control, the irony of a locked-and-loaded Tubman at City Hall is almost too much to bear.
Through preemption, the State has prevented the City from enacting sensible policies that would reduce the disproportionate impact of gun violence.
There is no justification for this restriction that could possibly outweigh the terrible impact of gun violence in Philadelphia.
— Mayor Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) September 13, 2023
But, on X, more people are focused on the racially-motivated means by which Pettit was selected.
Nothing But Color News strikes again… y’all won’t be happy until you own yourselves some white people, huh?
— #Kennedy24 #StopTheRestrictAct #StopSurveillance (@colormesheesh) November 2, 2023
Meritocracy is dead.
— The Investigative Examiners (@TruthorConseq12) November 2, 2023
The city of Philadelphia embraces racism.
— Crombopolis_Michael (@Woodcutcc) November 2, 2023
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