2 Florida officials fired for erasing Black faces from firefighter murals

2 Florida officials fired for erasing Black faces from firefighter muralsJuly 2, 2020

The first Black female deputy fire chief in Boynton Beach, Florida is speaking out after she was erased from a mural honoring the city’s firefighters.

Latosha Clemons is understandably outraged over the incident, which resulted in two city employees losing their job. 

Former fire chief Glenn Joseph, who us Black, was also set to appear on the mural but he too was replaced by a white face.

Clemons has now lawyered up to get to the bottom of why the Black faces were omitted from the display and made to look Caucasian. 

“Who made these changes and why did they make these changes?” her attorney, Nicole Hunt Jackson, asked Wednesday at a news conference, NBC News reports.  

READ MORE: White Florida man charged after pointing gun at Black homeowner

“I wanted little Black girls to look at that mural and know they can have their face on a mural,” said Clemons, the only Black female firefighter in Boynton Beach. She retired a few months ago after serving her community for 20 years. 

The mural was unveiled at a ribbon-cutting this month, showing her image replaced by a white face.

“My role is to get to who is responsible, how they came to the conclusion it was acceptable — and to push the issue for the need to examine policies and determine whether or not there needs to be racial sensitivity training,” her attorney explained.

“It’s a huge racial insult. For them to unilaterally take this and decide to not only remove her face but to whitewash the face, it is beyond offensive,” said Jackson. 

The mural has been removed and public arts manager, Debby Coles-Dobay, and the chief of the fire rescue department, Matthew Petty, have reportedly been fired over it. 

“The decision made to alter the artwork that was approved by the Public Arts Commission was wrong and disrespectful to our community,” City Manager Lori LaVerriere said in a statement.

Coles-Dobay claims she “was pressured to make this artwork change by the fire chief and his staff, as the city well knows.”

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