For a few days, Louisville is the home of the “Blank State: Hope for a New America” sculpture, a visual representation of the evolution of the Black experience and struggle in America.
The massive statue represents the “new” American history in the midst of today’s racial crisis, according to artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, who was on hand as the statue was unveiled Wednesday outside of the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, 1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.
Louisville was chosen as the first city in the statue’s upcoming tour because of the city’s role in the racial and social justice movement, which brought stark attention to the police-involved shooting deaths of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, and others in the past year.
State Representative Pamela Stevenson (D-Louisville), said Wednesday that despite the circumstances that brought the statue to Louisville, the city should use its brief visit as a time to heal.
“We went all the way to Africa for this man who has beautiful work,” Stevenson said of Akoto-Bamfo, a Ghanian artist. “It’s beautiful because his heart is. Let’s put it on the table. Let’s talk about what happened and let’s heal.”
The statue features four figures that symbolize the generational struggles in the Black American experience: a slave ancestor, a lynched union soldier martyr, a struggling mother activist, and a baby representing the next generation. The statue ends with an interactive protest sign held by the mother figure at the top, symbolizing the unwritten future of hope and healing.
People can share their ideas and hopes for creating positive change in this country and it will flash across the blank slate on the statue using the #BlankSlateHope social campaign.
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The statue unveiling and upcoming programming were curated by the Louisville Urban League, the NAACP, Louisville Tourism Center, the Muhammad Ali Center, Roots 101: African American Museum, the Divine Nine, and local elected officials. The statue will remain on display at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage through June 7 and will be moved to Injustice Square in downtown Louisville on June 8 and 9.
Louisville is the first stop on a U.S. tour which also includes stops in Indiana, Chicago, Atlanta, Selma, and Birmingham, Alabama, where it will remain on display until March 2022.
Mayor Greg Fischer said he was grateful to have the statue in Louisville. After a year of racial justice protests, Fischer says it’s a wake-up call for not only Louisville but the entire country.
“We must make a greater commitment to racial justice. And not just speak, but act on that commitment more quickly and with greater involvement,” Fischer said. “Although we worked on racial equity for many years, we need to think of this time as a blank slate.”
The statue brings “a moment of an opportunity to accelerate the fight towards justice on what will be a never-ending journey,”he added.
Akoto-Bamfo, best known for his outdoor “Nkyinkyim Installation” sculpture dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Transatlantic slave trade displayed at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, created “Blank Slate” and the tour to use art to forward the racial and social justice movements, pay tribute to the Black American experience, help inspire the healing of the nation, and elevate the voices of the silenced and oppressed by giving people a platform to let themselves be heard.
It’s also is a bold counterpoint and challenge to the more than 1,500 Confederate monuments and symbols still on display in public spaces across the U.S.,according to a news release announcing the statue tour.
Akoto-Bamfo gives credit to the people before him in the fight for freedom and uses that inspiration to create various sculptures to help join the fight.
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“People who have faced racial injustice in ways that I cannot even think about, people who know American history, more than I do,” Akoto-Bamfo said. “… [this] give me this chance to lend my voice, my creativity. And then my passion for this fight.”
The artist added that he’s “been tasked to do better. To do better than just waiting. To be passionate and create monuments. That’s what I’m going to do.”
He encourages people to continue to fight and thanks those who have risked their lives for social justice. “Please don’t stop because it is your efforts that got me to think that maybe I should also add my voice,” Akoto-Bamfo said.
Reach features intern Gabby Bunton at email@example.com.
Celebrate Black history and Juneteenth in Louisville
Muhammad Ali Festival
WHAT: The Ali Festival will celebrate and commemorate the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali through a series of events. Events include a “City of Ali” documentary screening, digital art exhibits and more. This year’s Ali Festival aims to bring about peace, justice and to replicate the unity of the city when he passed.
WHEN: June 3-13
MORE INFORMATION: alicenter.org/ali-fest/
Virtual Town Hall: Art and Activism in Louisville
WHAT: This virtual town hall will discuss the role of both art in the movement for racial justice and community safety issues. It will be hosted by entertainer and activist Gina Belafonte, known for her work on the 2018 Spike Lee film “BlacKkKlansman” and the critically acclaimed HBO film “Sing Your Song.” Speakers include activist Ashanti Scott, Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds, poet and author Hannah Drake, and youth organizer LaVon Clack.
WHEN: June 3, 6-7 p.m.
MORE INFORMATION: blankslatemonument.com/
‘Blank Slate’ public statue viewing
WHAT: Come view the Blank Slate sculpture before it departs to its next location. Historian Lamont Collins will be interviewed at the Injustice Square in downtown Louisville about its historical significance and current role in the movement for racial justice.
WHEN: June 8-9
WHERE: Injustice Square, 301 S 6th St.
Roots 101 Grand Opening
WHAT: Roots 101 is a new African American museum with a mission is to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans using exhibits, programs and activities to illustrate Black history, culture and art. This museum is home to the Breonna Taylor Memorial, the sign of the Allen Hotel, Big Momma’s House Exhibit and more.
WHEN: June 12, 12-4 p.m.
WHERE: 124 N 1st St.
MORE INFORMATION: roots-101.org
WHAT: This all-day street fair will have nearly 50 vendors to celebrate and commemorate Black business owners, creators, etc. The event will also feature live musical performances from local and national artists.
WHEN: June 19, 12-6 p.m.
WHERE: Fourth Street Live! 411 S 4th St.
MORE INFORMATION: 4thstlive.com/events/20210619-melannaire-market
WHAT: A public art installation unveiling to support learning, healing, reflection, reconciliation and action by telling the stories of both known and unknown Black men, women and children that were enslaved and hidden figures in Louisville. The project is a collaboration between artist-led nonprofit IDEAS xLab, the Frazier History Museum, Roots 101, various departments within Louisville Metro Government and will incorporate Louisville’s history and heritage to create limestone benches, poetry, photography, and arts-based experiences along the Ohio River.
WHEN: June 19 starting at 12 p.m. for the Juneteenth: Past, Present, Future event. The (Un)Known Project Site Dedication overlooking the Ohio River will be at 1:30 p.m. A free COVID-19 vaccine site open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
MORE INFORMATION: ideasxlab.com/unknown
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