The two photos above are photos I took of a display at the University of Iowa Pentacrest at 8:30 am this morning. If you live in Iowa City you probably know that this display has made many headlines. However, I am sick and tired of reading the distorted “I feel attacked” victimized artist narrative that I have been forced to read in almost every news outlet today. I have experienced this statue, the discussion with the artist and the after math along with a large group of black students and I will tell you everything that has happened that the university and media does not want you to know in this post. However, I want to clarify, I am NOT a journalist, I’m a Black female student activist at the University of Iowa.
According to the artist the statue was placed on the Pentacrest at 7 am. The statue was NOT removed until about 10:30.
Here’s what happened in regards to the piece of “art” being on the Pentacrest:
The robe and hat consist of old local newspaper reports on the KKK and race riots. The hat had a clear space with a RECORDING camera inside.
There were Iowa City Police officers PRESENT for a lengthy amount of time the statue was up.
An officer was actually laughing with the artist about the statue.
The statue WAS NOT granted permission to be on the Pentacrest but the police did nothing about it.
so many students and university officials passed the statue but no action was taken.
The police had to be SHAMED by a black female into removing the extremely offensive piece of “art” from the Pentacrest.
However the police did not confiscate the work of art, the artist was allowed to take it back WITH THE CAMERA INSIDE, no questions asked!
It was placed in the exact spot a rally was held in the night before for Eric Garner/ Police brutality.
Here’s what the Black students on campus DID DO:
Assemble on the Pentacrest and have a discussion with the Artist for almost 2 hours.
March (PEACEFULLY) to Sally Mason's (University of Iowa President) office.
Meet with multiple university officials, demand answers, further action, an apology and that the artist and university employee that tweeted and shared on Facebook that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences supports the “art” be reprimanded.
Here’s what the students DID NOT DO:
USE ANY FORM OF VIOLENCE OR VANDALISM OR ANYTHING RELATIVELY CLOSE TO VIOLENCE WHAT SO EVER.
Here’s how the University responded:
Call the police on students when they PEACEFULLY marched to Sally Mason’s office to demand answers.
Secretary at the office claimed to be overwhelmed and at least 5 armed cops showed up on the scene ASAP.
The cop that was laughing at the statue earlier was among the cops that showed up.
An aggressive police officer put his hands on a PEACEFULLY protesting black female student, student had to direct him to take his hands off.
After the police arrived then two administrators (One of them who was present as we were conversing with the artist right after it was removed but left for lunch) decided to FINALLY show up.
President Sally Mason is NO WHERE TO BE FOUND. Students found statement on desk that said something along the lines of ‘Tell anyone I am not available and I am out of town.’
Several students tried to go to the provost and police PHYSICALLY blocked them. The doors were locked and secretaries were hiding (from peaceful students looking for answers!)
After all that a meeting was finally held with a few university administrators. (Only one out of about 5 deans of art was present, Sally Mason still no where to be found and no statement issued.)
The University still has not:
- Issued an apology.
- Provided any answers on how the artist and CLAS official that tweeted the University’s support of the art will be reprimanded.
-Taken any action against the official or artist.
-Confiscated the camera or obtained the footage.
-Disclosed who was responsible for expressing that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences supports the display.
But the most important point of all of this is how the media is twisting the story. I, along with many other black students who were affected by the display, had a lengthy (almost 2 hour) discussion with the Artist. The narrative of the artist being a victim needs to stop. We talked to him and as we were expressing the fear that his work sparked in our hearts and the distastefulness of it he called us “One track minded” and said that he was offended by, what we kept reminding him was constructive criticism of a BLATANTLY wrong display, our opinions and that he is actually the one who is being attacked. The man also walked past us several times to go DO INTERVIEWS WITH THE MEDIA. If his heart was really in the right place he would have came to spark the discussion and find out why we were so angry. We had to go get him to do so. ALSO THE MEDIA WAS JUST GOING TO INTERVIEW HIM UNTIL WE DEMANDED TO EXPRESS OUR SIDE AS WELL AND THE MEDIA STILL WARPED OUR STATEMENTS AND FOCUSED ON SELLING A VICTIMIZED ARTIST NARRATIVE RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON THE ISSUE AT HAND AND HOW THE UNIVERSITY IS DEALING WITH IT AND HOW IT IS AFFECTING US STUDENTS. Do not fall for the mainstream media, share this with everyone you know is reading it. Educate yourselves and everyone around you.
****UPDATE**** (December 14, 2014)
So I’ve been super busy with finals and everything coming up but I must update this for the sake of transparency and fairness:
-The University issued an apology 2 days after the effigy was put up.
-The person responsible for tweeting and posting the art on the University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has come forward and tweeted an apology to me, two other black leaders and a bunch of random (as far as I’m concerned) other people, but no official apology through an official University platform from him yet.
-We reclaimed the space with chalk art and signs the next day (see my other blog post).
-We were able to get a meeting with the University’s president the Wednesday after the effigy was put up (a Friday).
-The Assistant Professor who put it up will still be teaching a course next semester.
-University spoke with the artist about the camera and the artist said it was off, but they did not confiscate it (to check).
Faith Joseph Ekakitie, a senior defensive end for the University of Iowa football team, published a harrowing Facebook post last week detailing his encounter with five Iowa City police officers, which came in the middle of his quest “to be the very best like no one ever was.” In a Facebook post, Ekakitie describing the scary situation, which resolved peacefully, and why he’s thanking Iowa police now.