Respect, Appreciate Treasure & Protect  “Images of Us”

pictured above : Buffalo NY MLK Park Statute Dedication in his Honor by artist John Wilson 

by John Baker

The statue in MLK Park isn’t something we should even consider discarding or destroying like an old shoe. We don’t destroy BLACK ART.

It has been said that everyone’s a critic, even those that couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler.  Since when does the view of so few have the right to determine what’s good art for so many.  Art be it abstract, realism, symbolic, modern, contemporary, is subject to individual taste, as with music, books and movies.  As a career professional artist of many years I appreciate those that like my artwork and respect the opinion of those that don’t.

Historical documents and firsthand accounts verify that the committee that commissioned the statue for MLK Park got what they agreed to.  Nowhere is it written that this statue was to be a realistic depiction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  It was meant to honor the civil rights leader and represent the everyday man.

The very accomplished African-American sculptor John Wilson

Artist John Wilson with one of his many sculptures this one titled

who created it at the time said “Although most statues are of important individual leaders, with this statue, I wanted to pay homage to the ordinary Black people (male or female) and make them undeniably visible.  I wanted to design and shape it so that all viewers, of any race or culture, would identify with the sense of universal humanity contained in this monumental head of a Black person.”  Is it an unreasonable expectation to appreciate and respect it for what it is and was created to be?  

Are we so rich with images that reflect African-Americans in our community that we can afford to destroy one of the unique statues in our country that’s been in Buffalo, N.Y. for 30 years?  For decades it has been a part of the fabric of our cultural history and will be missed if destroyed.  It cost just as much to destroy this one as it does to build a realistic one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Why can’t we have to best of both worlds?  It makes economic sense to have both.

How soon we forget in January of 1986 the community was angered because the statue was vandalized with white paint just before the first national MLK holiday.  Callers to police said White men where painting it.  What’s worse – them painting it or us destroying it?  What has changed since then, is it not  the same sculpture, the same image?

With all due respect I don’t know of any credentials or professional experiences that Mr. Samuel A. Herbert has that qualifies him to evaluate and determine the value of any artwork, symbolic, realistic or imagery.  Instead of dividing and embracing our community with uninformed, unqualified misguided intentions masquerading as an art critic, he should redirect that energy into raising funds for the realistic MLK statue most agree we want.  With all the battles to be had this is not one of them. Its 2019 Instead of complaining about what we have the complaint should be about what we don’t have.  With all the public art being produce in our city all we have to claim is the FREEDOM WALL.  

A select few have described the statue as “SHAMFUL.”  What’s “SHAMFUL” is the suggestion that it be destroyed came from within our own community! What should be destroyed is that divisive Coalition to Save MLK Park petition. This senseless assault on an “Image of Us” needs to stop!

John Baker Artist /Curator and President of WNY Arts Collective

Let’s not do to ourselves what we have historically fought to keep others from doing to us….. Respect, Appreciate, Treasure & Protect “Images of Us”!