Louisville, KY

Sculpture Paying Tribute to African-American Experience Is Unveiled in Louisville

Glad Doggett

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"Blank Slate" sculpture by Kwame Akoto-BamfoCourtesy of Louisville Tourism

The sculpture “Blank Slate: Hope For a New America” will be unveiled at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville, Kentucky, on Wednesday, June 2, at 11 a.m.

The statue will remain on display to the public at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage through June 7, and will be moved to Injustice Square in Louisville on June 8 and 9.

Louisville is the first stop on the sculpture’s U.S. tour. It will travel on a flatbed truck across the country to additional locations with a historical and painful legacy of racial injustice. The tour includes stops in Princeton, Indiana; Chicago; Atlanta; Selma; and Birmingham.

It will remain on display in Birmingham, Alabama, until March 2022, when it will be moved to a permanent location, determined by a multi-city bidding process.

This mobile art installation was created by Ghanian Artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo as a bold counterpoint and challenge to the more than 1,500 Confederate monuments and symbols still on display in public spaces across the United States. The unveiling will occur at a pivotal time for racial justice in America, particularly in Louisville.

“Louisville is the center of social healing for our country. We were deeply involved in the protests to bring about social justice and now we can lead the way for acknowledging injustices and healing. This sculpture is designed to capture the voice of all people, while turning our attention towards what's possible,” said State Representative Pamela Stevenson.

Louisville is the city where law enforcement brutality and gun violence took the lives of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Travis Nagdy, and others in the past year.

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"Blank Slate" sculpture by Kwame Akoto-BamfoCourtesy of Louisville Tourism

A Tribute to the African American Experience

The Blank Slate statue features four figures that symbolize the generational struggles in the African American experience: a slave ancestor, a lynched union soldier martyr, a struggling mother activist, and a baby representing the next generation. The figures in Blank Slate are standing on top of the only thing they have—each other— a powerful representation of how only through generations of determined cooperation can the underprivileged elevate each other enough to have a voice to speak truth to power. Confederate heroes are typically depicted standing atop “pedestals of privilege.”

The monument culminates in an interactive protest sign held by the mother figure at the top, symbolizing the unwritten future of hope and healing. Through a dedicated WiFi system, the public can share on the screen their ideas and hopes for creating positive change in this country. The blank slate will be integrated with a #BlankSlateHope social campaign.

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"Blank Slate" sculpture by Kwame Akoto-BamfoCourtesy of Louisville Tourism

Artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo created the Blank Slate statue to pay tribute to the African American experience, challenge the overwhelming prevalence of the Confederate legacy in the United States, and inspire a dialogue for a more hopeful future. The statue is unapologetic in its representation of American history in the midst of today’s racial crisis and is a visual representation of the evolution of the African American experience and struggle— from the millions of enslaved men and women who were crucial to the foundation of the U.S., to the Black soldiers who died fighting in the Civil War, to the more recent lives of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Duante Wright, and innumerable others.

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"Blank Slate" sculpture by Kwame Akoto-BamfoCourtesy of Louisville Tourism

A Grand Mission Behind the Sculpture

Akoto-Bamfo intends to use art to forward the racial and social justice movements, to inspire the healing of the nation, and to elevate the voices of the silenced and oppressed by giving people a platform to let themselves be heard.

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 the Blank Slate statue to challenge the overwhelming prevalence of this legacy by raising awareness of the entrenched issues in each city and inspire a dialogue for a more hopeful future.

The official programming in conjunction with the sculpture’s unveiling in Louisville includes:

Unveiling Ceremony (Wednesday, June 2 at 11 a.m. to Noon)

  • Location: The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville
  • Speakers will include: Mayor Greg Fischer, Representative Pamela Stevenson, KCAAH Executive Director Aukram Burton, and the Blank Slate monument creator, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo
  • Kentucky State Senator Gerald Neal will present a special proclamation to Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo
  • The West Louisville Boy and Girls’ Choir, local drummers, and spoken word from Louisville Justice League Students will perform.

Meet & Greet and Artist Q&A session (Wednesday, June 2 at 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.)

  • Location: The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville
  • Local students will have an opportunity to participate in a Q&A with artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo presented by the Divine 9, the Louisville Urban League, and the NAACP

Virtual Town Hall: Art & Activism in Louisville (Thursday, June 3, at 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.)

  • Entertainer and activist Gina Belafonte, known for her work on the 2018 Spike Lee film BlacK Klansman and the critically acclaimed HBO film Sing Your Song will be the host.
  • Speakers include activist Ashanti Scott, Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds, poet and author Hannah Drake, and youth organizer LaVon Clack.
  • The town hall will convene a discussion about the role of art in the movement for racial justice and community safety issues.

Public Statue Viewing (Wednesday, June 2 through Monday, June 7 at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

  • Location: The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage
  • The Blank Slate statue will be available to the public for observation, reflection, and participation in the conversation through an interactive Blank Slate screen at the top of the monument.

Public Statue Viewing (Tuesday, June 8 to Wednesday, June 9)

  • Location: Injustice Square, 301 S 6th St, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Historian Lamont Collins will be interviewed at the Square about the historical significance of the Square and its current role in the movement for racial justice

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Sources www.blankslatemonument.com

Press release, Louisville Tourism

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Glad Doggett is a freelance writer from Louisville, Kentucky.

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