Erasing black faces: Oak Park mural depicting men killed by law enforcement gets painted over
Theater owner says mural was mistaken for vandalism, wants ‘controlled dialogue’ about community issues
A mural depicting seven black men killed by officers was scrubbed from the side of an Oak Park theater, sparking debate in a historically black neighborhood experiencing rapid gentrification.
Tracy Stigler, president of St. Hope Development Co., which owns the Guild Theater where the unsigned work was painted, told SN&R that the mural was removed because it was believed to be “vandalism.”
Stigler added that it was only after the removal that his company learned the paintings were a memorial. “We want Oak Park to be a place of dialogue, but it’s got to be a controlled dialogue,” Stigler said. “This was no more than a property maintenance issue.”
The mural depicted the faces of Adriene Ludd, Dazion Flenaugh, Joseph Mann, Lorenzo Cruz, Desmond Phillips, Mikel McIntyre and Ryan Ellis, black men who have died following encounters with Sacramento area law enforcement. “#RestinPower” was painted above their images.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento held a September 22 block party to celebrate Ludd, two years after he died in a standoff with Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies.
“Immediately, people brought candles,” said chapter founder Tanya Faison.
A day or two later, the faces were covered by huge, crimson splotches.
Several residents penned an open letter arguing that the mural should never have been removed. Jac Taylor was one of the signers. “What was left was horrific—it looked like blood,” she said.
Taylor is white and relatively new to Oak Park. She’s worried about being part of the gentrification wave pushing longtime residents out of the area. Taylor thought the mural was important. “It was reclaiming that space as black,” Taylor said. “It’s a spot that’s important for black folks in the neighborhood.”
Black Lives Matter Sacramento is planning a November 18 rally at the theater to bring the mural back.
“It was a great place to mourn loved ones,” Faison noted. “But it also put something back in Oak Park that’s been taken away; black history and blackness have been erased.” (Michael Mott)