October 28, 2021

Black Firefighter Latosha Clemons Sues Boynton Metropolis Over Mural Depicting Her as White

3 min read

In 1996, Latosha Clemons grew to become the first-ever Black feminine firefighter employed by town of Boynton Seashore, Florida. 20 years later, she grew to become the Boynton Seashore Fireplace Rescue Division’s first Black deputy chief.

In 2019, Boynton’s public arts fee commissioned a mural to honor town’s firefighters and rescue staff. One of many pictures included within the mural was to be based mostly on a photograph of three feminine Boynton Seashore firefighters—two of whom have been white, and Clemons.

The mural, which was described by Boynton Seashore Metropolis Supervisor Lori LaVerriere as a “important and distinctive art work,” was unveiled on the metropolis’s new Fireplace Station #1 on June 3, 2020. Nonetheless, one thing was clearly very unsuitable with the portray, which portrayed all three of the ladies, together with Clemons, as white. It additionally depicted former Boynton Fireplace Chief Glenn Joseph, who’s Black, as a white man.

Confronted with native outrage, metropolis officers eliminated the mural the following day. Within the aftermath, LaVerriere fired Debby Coles-Dobay, Boynton Seashore’s public arts supervisor. In a statement posted to Facebook, LaVerriere stated she and Fireplace Chief Matthew Petty “agreed that it’s in the perfect curiosity of the Metropolis of Boynton Seashore that we mutually separate employment.” It isn’t clear precisely what position Petty performed within the mural’s improvement.

“Modifications have been made to the authorised art work that have been inappropriate… I sincerely apologize this occurred and can take each measure crucial to make sure this by no means occurs once more,” LaVerriere said at the time. “Please perceive that this unlucky incident isn’t indicative of our values.”

Clemons is now suing the Metropolis of Boynton Seashore for defamation and negligence.

“Being depicted as white was not solely a false presentation of Clemons, it was additionally an outline which utterly disrespected all that Clemons, the primary feminine Black firefighter for the Metropolis, had achieved, her willpower, focus and exhausting work,” the lawsuit states, including that Boynton Seashore officers portrayed Clemons as white, “a race town presumably felt higher match the picture it was attempting to undertaking.”

On Tuesday, Boynton Seashore commissioners and attorneys will meet privately to strategize on how best to move forward, and whether or not which means settling the case or combating it out in courtroom. Clemons’ go well with requests a jury trial.

Her lawyer, Arthur Schofield declined to remark, citing energetic litigation. Clemons, who is now the chief of the Forest Park, Georgia Fire Department, didn’t instantly reply to The Every day Beast’s request for touch upon Friday.

Other than being personally introduced “in a false mild” by the whitewashed mural, the art work “additionally demonstrated disrespect for the massive Black inhabitants of the Metropolis,” the go well with contends. “The general public response to the mural was quick and much reaching, finally involving The Boynton Seashore Coalition of Clergy which tried to find out how this might have occurred and to take care of peace between the Metropolis and its Black inhabitants.”

The picture of Clemons with a white face was distributed “with the aptitude of a public unveiling,” the go well with continues, saying that the “false depiction” induced Clemons “psychological and emotional hurt, ache and struggling and injury to private {and professional} popularity, in addition to subjected her to ridicule, contempt, shame and/or humiliation each within the Metropolis Administration and in the neighborhood at giant.”

In an email to the Palm Beach Post last year, Coles-Dobay, the previous public arts supervisor, claimed she “was pressured to make this art work change by the Fireplace Chief and his workers, because the Metropolis nicely is aware of.”

“I’m damage. I’m dissatisfied. I’m outraged,” Clemons said after the firings were announced, saying the mural induced her “sleepless nights.” “It’s been my coronary heart and soul and my lifeblood to serve in the neighborhood the place I grew up … that is past disrespect and I principally wish to know why it occurred.”

As her lawsuit states, “The Metropolis had an obligation to make sure that the mural precisely depicted the image Clemons had authorised to be used, that it depicted Clemons for who she is and for which she takes pleasure; a Black feminine.”

The mural was later revised and replaced with an unaltered depiction of Clemons.

Each side are scheduled to meet with a mediator, by way of Zoom, on November 30.

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