In some ways, the vandalism to the mural at Kendall Perkins Park helped further highlight the ultimate goal of the project — a celebration of unity and love, along with the vision of education and empowerment in the Black community.
Approximately 75 people on Saturday attended a socially distanced event hosted by the Northwest Neighborhood Alliance to “restore the vision” of the project. Members of the Alliance said they are laser-focused on pressing forward, more determined than ever.
Rafe Buckner, chairperson of the Alliance, said when they laid out the vision for this wall, the hope was that it would empower and educate the children of the immediate communities.
“We wanted to empower them through a use of positive imagery,” he said. “We all understand the power of imagery and symbolism. We understand that a lot of kids’ self esteem is tied to what others think of them — whether it’s parents, siblings, peers, or teachers. We felt that if we put the images up that looked like them, we could raise their self esteem — with the thought being that confident people become productive people, and productive people do positive things in their community.”
Buckner continued: “The second part was education. We wanted the kids to know more about their ancestors — the positive and amazing things their ancestors have contributed to the human experience. We wanted them to know they could do great things because the people before them had done great things.”
Buckner said they also wanted to re-educate the older people of the community.
“For nearly 400 years, a white supremacy system had taught the lie that Africans and African American people weren’t equal, that we were less than simply because of the color of our skin,” he said. “Not only did African Americans get taught this, but the white community did as well. That’s why we’re here today, to condemn the lie of racial superiority and racial inferiority … We have the power to build or destroy, and we’re choosing to build.”
Members of several local organizations, as well City and County officials, attended the event and shared words of support to restore the mural.
The Rev. Rhondalyn Randolph, president of the Owensboro NAACP chapter, said that they must all keep the faith, and that the vandalism was even a sign that they are on the right path.
“When the word came out that the artwork was defaced, the devil thought that he was going to minimize and demoralize the momentum that has been building to beautify this community,” she said. “The Scripture says that faith without works is dead. … When the enemy starts to attack like this, then we’re on the right path. We have to band together as a community like we are doing right now. Let this not be the last time that we stand together in solidarity against evil, inequality, discrimination, against things like this.”
Micaheal Johnson — founder of Truth Outreach Inc. and member of the Owensboro Public Schools Board of Education — prayed for unity, love and compassion for fellow man because “this is what keeps us stable in a community that sometimes is unstable.”
Like Buckner, Johnson discussed the importance of the meaning behind the mural.
“Part of history is what we learn from it. This mural reflects African history,” Johnson said. “It is very important that we understand our history in order to move forward in this world. This is for everyone in the community. It helps everybody.”
Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson and Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly — as well as City Commissioner Bob Glenn — said NW Neighborhood Alliance had their full support in pressing on with the project, also condemning the racists messages that had been spray painted on the mural.
Olga McKissic, Director at the H.L. Neblett Community Center, encouraged the community to remain positive and set an example for future generations.
“It’s not what we are called, it’s what we answer to. … We love our enemies,” she said. “We know there is hate and evil in this world, but love covers everything. This can be fixed and made better than it was before. Our kids need to know they are better than this, that they can overcome this, and we all can overcome this together.”