The Crusader Newspaper Group

Diverse group of Millennials demands Merchandise Mart remove cotton-picking mural

By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader

Timothy Kincaide, 32, a sales representative at the Merchandise Mart, along with about 100 racially diverse employees, are demanding that Mart officials remove or cover up an offensive mural depicting slaves picking cotton in Mississippi.

Timothy Kincaide

“It is offensive to me because it shows the struggle with my people and what we had to go through. There is nothing I see to be proud of in this mural because I know what they actually went through,” Kincaide said.

Having grown up in Brooklyn, Illinois, the first all African American town in the history of the U.S., I have deep rooted ties to slavery in knowing that the Underground Railroad went through my town,” he said.

“A lot of people migrated to Brooklyn from Missouri which was a slave state. Once the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and executed, Missouri was one of the states that did not recognize that law,” he said.

“I have those roots and have heard those slave stories. That mural is nothing to be proud of. It represents oppression and abuse. It means a lot for the producers and owners of the Merchandise Mart who sold the cotton but why do they have to show this mural. That is pain. I’m not proud of that moment in history. That’s painful to see my ancestors bent over, hurting just to produce cotton,” he said.

However, Rev. Janette Wilson, national spokesperson for Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., has agreed to meet with Kincaide and his coalition Saturday, May 12th. She does not understand why they are upset with looking at their own history.

But, that is now how Merchandise Mart officials see their concerns. “The Merchandise Mart opened on May 5, 1930, culminating Marshall Field’s dream of a single wholesale center for the entire nation,” said Lynda Murphy, president/founder of the Murphy Knott Public relations, Inc., representing the Merchandise Mart.

“Upon opening, artist Jules Guerin’s frieze of 17 murals was unveiled as the primary feature in the main lobby and graphically illustrates trade and commerce around the world, including the countries of origin for items sold in the Merchandise Mart.

“The murals depict the industries and products, the primary mode of transportation and the architecture of 15 countries,” explained Murphy.

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