A lost opportunity to place slave memorial at Faneuil Hall
Board members, backing artist and his work, bemoan loss of memorial
Re “Artist pulls out of slave memorial” (Metro, July 18): In May, the artist Steve Locke invited us to join the advisory board for his proposed memorial to the enslaved black people on whose backs much of the wealth of early America, and Boston in particular, was amassed. “Auction Block Memorial at Faneuil Hall” was to call attention to — and encourage a reckoning with — a significant part of Boston’s history that does not mesh with the city’s still-powerful reputation as the lead actor in the fight for American liberty.
With enthusiasm, we accepted Locke’s invitation. We are not of one mind on the other issues encircling Faneuil Hall and this proposal — namely, whether the site itself should be renamed and the process by which the City of Boston approved Locke’s proposal. However, we are of one mind that the loss of this proposed memorial represents a loss for the city, its residents, and its visitors. We remain fully in support of Locke and this work.
This memorial would have encouraged us to engage in thoughtfully considered dialogue about how Boston’s historical record can more fully incorporate understandings of race in our past and in our current culture — a dialogue we still need to have.
Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy
Institute of Contemporary Art
Hutchins Center for African & African American Research
This letter was cosigned by a number of other members of the advisory board: Camilo Alvarez, Marty Blatt, Sean Hennessey, Lyssa Palu-ay, Patti Seitz, and Lynn Smiledge.
The NAACP’s opposition to the slave memorial proposed for Faneuil Hall by artist Steve Locke is incomprehensible. Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston chapter of the NAACP, explains that there is so much pain around issues of race and racism (which is certainly true), and that we have to be intentional about who is included in these conversations. I don’t understand exactly what that means, but it’s hard not to reach a conclusion that their feelings were hurt that they weren’t consulted enough.
This memorial is a thoughtful, subtle reminder of the slave auctions that took place at Faneuil Hall. It is to be embedded in the ground, heated to the temperature of the human body, with a map showing slave trade routes.
It’s hard to imagine any opposition to it, particularly from an organization that promotes racial awareness.
Boston is missing out on a chance to raise our racial consciousness and experience a powerful work of art.
The writer is an artist.