The Painting of a Pointing Finger: For Lucretia Mott, Heather Heyer, and ‘Nem

Black men and women have been massacred or have put down their lives fighting for parity that never came in the cages built for them by the City of Charlottesville and their names were forgotten before the coroner eventually showed. Not a bench, a park, or corner stone was to be named after any of them to remind their family of their humanity.

I walked through something museum-like in Massachusetts, just outside of Medford, attempting to convince myself the photos and busts and writings all made sense. My fists were clenched the entire 23 minutes I could stand being there, wondering how many nods were needed to create an exhibit highlighting slavery to Reconstruction, showing almost only the white folks who honorably fought for the freedom and for the equality of Black folks. There was a painting of Crispus Attucks hanging high, reminding me of Kanye’s, “bet they show off their token Blackie.”

William Lloyd Garrison was written about in great detail on the walls adjacent to John Brown. I appreciate good, white freedom fighters and I work hard to convert white allies into such, but when the white men highlighted in the exhibit pointed to the stars, the artist of the exhibit looked only at the finger and put that finger on display, changing the narrative, erasing the stars.

Charlottesville City Council, after laughing in the face of those who were adamantly against renaming the street for good reason, unanimously decided to forge the painting of that finger. Heather Heyer, a white woman, died while fighting for the equality her Black neighbors have been shouting for, begging for, and dying for since the beginning of their story in this former and seemingly present slave cage. Heather, along with hundreds others, including Deandre Harris, pointed to the people and demanded protection for them by the city. The city looked at Heather and no further and said, “we will honor you.” The unprotected will, again, sit invisible and simultaneously vulnerable and wonder why cotton and corn is worth more than Black lives.

My fist clenched, I felt it best to watch the decision from just outside the meeting room, having absolutely no faith in the council members to see beyond the finger. 5 of 5 council members voted to rename 4th street after the white woman killed by a white supremacist while fighting for equality. Only 3 nods were necessary, however. Elizabeth Margaret Chandler and Lydia Maria Child would be so proud.

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