Lead Story West Edition

Popular Crenshaw mural defaced by swastikas

 

CRENSHAW — The Los Angeles Police Department will conduct a community meeting concerning the vandalism of a Crenshaw Boulevard mural will be held at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7 on the first floor of the Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Hills Community Room, 3782 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Speakers will include City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Southwest LAPD Area Captain Lee Sands, Southwest LAPD Detective Commanding Officer Perry Griffith and Southwest LAPD Investigating Detective Anthony Kong.

Police are still seeking the unknown suspect who spray painted swastikas on the mural that depicts four defiant Black Panthers and other African-American heroes Nov. 29.

Police were notified of the defacement just before noon and nearly 30 law enforcement officials arrived to inspect the damage done to the mural, which is located at 50th Street and Crenshaw Boulevard.

The mural, named “Our Mighty Contribution,” stretches for an entire city block and has been a cultural institution in the African-American community for nearly two decades. It depicts African American icons such as Martin Luther King Jr. Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey.

With hate crimes against minorities continuing to rise in Los Angeles County, the news of swastikas being painted on the faces of four Black Panther women was a cause for concern.

“My detectives canvassed the entire neighborhood for video footage,” Griffith said. “We have some investigative leads.”

Pausing, he added, “Historically, the wall is a mainstay in this community. I’ve seen that wall throughout my youth. It depicts the fabric of the community and we are taking the vandalism very seriously.”

Enkone, the artist who spearheaded the drawing of the mural over 18 years ago with 12 other artists known as Rocking the Nation, said his phone started ringing immediately after the incident.

“I received multiple phone calls from different friends,” Enkone said. “One was filmmaker and curator of the mural Gregory Everett, who is working on a Black Panther documentary titled ‘41st and Central.’ He sent a picture of the vandalism to me and to Gil Parker, a former Black Panther.”

“After I heard about the vandalism, I called a lot of people who were in the party,” said Parker, who was a member of the Black Panther Southern California Chapter from 1968 to 1970.

“Hate led to that defacement. It had to be someone who had a disrespect for our people,” Parker added. “You can’t pinpoint where it derives from, especially considering the state that the country is in at this time. There’s a lot of polarization and division. Different hate groups have come to the surface with no regard for their fellow Americans.”

Enkone said he wasted no time seeing the vandalism for himself.

“I immediately rushed to the location and witnessed the swastikas that had been spray painted over the faces of the four female Black Panthers. To tell you the truth, I was shocked,” he said.

Enkone said he and a cleanup crew worked quickly to remove the swastikas to restore the mural by using a special anti-graffiti solution. He touched up the mural with spray paint to ensure that it was restored to its original condition. “I wanted to make sure that the swastikas were removed before the students from Crenshaw High School were released from class,” he said. “I did not want the students to see that damage. That wall is love and they didn’t need to see hate.”

The mural depicts four Afro-wearing black women defiantly holding guns and hoisting their fists in solidarity during the 1960s, when the Black Panther and Black Power movements were at their height.

Enkone said he was inspired to draw the section of the mural featuring the four Black Panther women after seeing a photo of Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver holding a rifle at a rally.

“I was thumbing through this book in the library when I was in the seventh grade and came across the Cleaver photo. It was so powerful. It fascinated me,” said Enkone, who quickly posted the photo on his bedroom wall.

“I believe that the Black Panthers were misunderstood,” Enkone added. “Black people were being beaten, kicked and raped by police officers on a daily basis. They found loopholes to carry loaded guns to protect people from white supremacy because the black community was being brutalized.”

Some community residents believe that the swastikas represent an underlying sentiment that is creeping into the neighborhood. A steady stream of people have been stopping by the mural to take pictures to film the mural on their cell phones.

“The perpetrator or perpetrators need to be wiped off the face of the map,” said 54-year-old Crenshaw resident Lamar Marquez. “It could be anybody. We have nothing to go on. God Bless their soul.”

“I think that it might have been people who are against the cause of the Black Panthers,” said 14-year-old David Purdom, a student at View Park High School. “They are going to get punished by God because they defaced something beautiful.”

“I saw the vandalism of the mural on the news. It’s hard to say who did it,” said Crenshaw resident David Williams, 59, who was waiting for his order at the nearby Popeye’s Chicken. “That mural has been there for years, so why would they mess over it now? It might be some kids, but it might be some hate stuff.”

Michael Williams pulled up in his car near the mural and immediately began recording the painting of the four Black Panthers on his cell phone.

“A friend sent me an Instagram picture of the swastikas spray painted over the faces of the Black Panther women. I thought it was a joke,” Williams said. “I had to come and see for myself.

“If you allow this crap to happen in this community, then you are allowing them to take over our last standing neighborhood,” he added.

Gregory Dulan, owner of Dulan’s Soul Food that is located on the same block as the mural, said he was outraged when he heard about the incident.

‘‘That mural has been there for decades, and it made me angry when I saw it had been defaced,” Dulan said. “The fact that it was painted with swastikas is an insult to the entire community. I just hope they catch who did it.”

By Shirley Hawkins

Contributing Writer