Controversial mural at Sunset Park High School spurs backlash

February 14, 2018 Victoria Merlino
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BY VICTORIA MERLINO

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A mural hung in the lobby of Sunset Park High School by the school’s Black Student Union has raised hackles — and, after stirring controversy, has been moved to a less prominent position in a classroom.

The image — which caused a backlash on Facebook after one person shared a photo of the image  with the comment, Feel free to flood the phone lines with complaints” — depicts a young black girl spray-painting “bigger than hate” on a wall while a white police officer aims a gun at her back.

 

The sign accompanying the mural reads, “It represents the lived reality of Black people (people of color) in our society,” adding, “Students of the Black Student Union (BSU), here at Sunset Park High School, wanted to created this mural to highlight issues of racial justice that they have experienced themselves (i.e. stop and frisk or Police Brutality) or witnessed a loved one facing these issues. By creating this mural, students of BSU wanted to affirm their identities.”

 

Jeffery White, faculty adviser to the BSU, also took to Facebook to share his side.

 

“So the students of the Black Student Union at Sunset Park High School I am faculty advisor for created this mural for our Black Lives Matter Week of Action his week,” he wrote. “I have been in several meetings today because people inside and/or outside the school and police officers have been complaining and are upset about this mural and what it depicts. The superintendent of the NYC DOE was contacted about the contention of the mural and my principal informed me that people are not happy we have it up.” White included pictures of the mural and the sign accompanying it in his post.

 

He asked others to share the post, writing: “We will not be silenced!”

A group of 80 students protested the removal of the sign with a walk out on February 9, White later confirmed in an interview. Students also demonstrating by sitting on the floor of the library and chanting “black lives matter” and “we will not be silenced.”

White said he has not yet faced any repercussions for the mural, but has been “blamed inadvertently” for all of the controversy.

Contacted for comment, Michael Aciman, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education, provided this statement: “All schools must provide students with a supportive and inclusive learning environment, and we encourage students to express themselves in creative ways. The poster was made as part of an afterschool program and will be moved to the classroom where the program meets.”

The mural is currently folded up in the school’s principal’s office.


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