Thursday, February 25, 2010

A whole lot of shacklin' goin' on

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 5:48 PM

Row, row, row your boat.
  • Row, row, row your boat.
The rust-colored boat is constructed out of metal bodies, their faces a series of blank stares.

While intriguing to look at, the piece doesn't immediately strike you as controversial. "Journey," artist Michael Brohman's sculpted depiction of a slave ship, seems like little more than a sad reminder of a dark chapter in American history.

So it may seem odd that the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recently became rather upset about the boat. Actually, it wasn't so much the boat that ticked the group off, as its placement: Right smack in front of the El Paso County Combined Courts.

Hmmmm... a boat of imprisoned African-Americans in front of a place that sends people to ... prison.

You know what they say — Location, location, location.

NAACP Branch President Rosemary Harris Lytle says the placement of the statue was particuarly unnerving because blacks in America are sent to prison at a disproportionate rate when compared to white Americans.

“Someone called that sculpture from bondage to bondage,” she says. “Any oppressd communities I think can relate to our feelings about the placement of the sculpture.”

Thankfully, Lytle says she didn't have much trouble having the offense, at least partially, corrected. She simply spoke to the nonprofit Community Ventures, which brings sculptures to the streets of downtown for a one-year stay (as part of the Art on the Streets program). The group's directors were perceptive to her concerns.

“We could literally see light bulbs go off in the room," she laughs. "It was one of the best diversity discussions that I’ve attended for a long time in this city.”

The folks with Ventures explained that "Journey," which had already been in place for months, was scheduled to be removed in spring. They also offered to add a second plaque to the peice that would explain the sculpture, and hopefully ease any discomfort with its location.

Interestingly, Community Ventures has also been made aware that not everyone agrees with the placement of another statue, "A Girl's Best Friend" — the honking diamond ring out in front of the City Adminstration Building.

Perhaps not everyone thinks irony is in good taste.

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