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New interactive, Black history monument unveiling and Youth Summit in Chicago on June 19 blank slate: hope for a new America tour of U.S. cities

Official community programming is presented in partnership with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Vision of Restoration, the DuSable Museum, and special guests Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and more.  

 On Saturday, June 19, at 12 p.m. CST the Blank Slate: Hope For a New America sculpture will be unveiled at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, followed by an Arts & Activism Youth Summit to discuss the ongoing violence in Chicago and surrounding suburbs and make a call to action for peace and healing. The program is curated in partnership with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Vision of Restoration, and the DuSable Museum, and notable speakers will include Illinois Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and celebrity special guests.

The statue will remain on display to the public at the DuSable Museum throughout Saturday for the celebration of Juneteenth. Chicago is the fourth stop on a U.S. tour, traveling on a flatbed truck across the country to additional locations with a historical and painful legacy of racial injustice including Louisville, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Selma, and Birmingham.

At a pivotal time for racial justice in America, where law enforcement brutality and gun violence have taken the lives of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Travis Nagdy, and innumerable others in the past year, this mobile art installation was created by Ghanian Artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo as a bold counterpoint and challenge to the more than 1,800 Confederate monuments and symbols still on display in public spaces across the United States. The Arts & Activism Youth Forum will discuss the current challenges of violence in Chicago and hope for the future of investing in the power of youth to lead a movement of peace, healing, and activism.

The official programming includes:

Unveiling Ceremony for Blank Slate in Chicago (Saturday, June 19 at 12 p.m. CST)

  • At the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago

  • Speakers include Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and the Blank Slate monument creator Kwame Akoto-Bamfo

Arts & Activism Youth Forum (Saturday, June 19 at 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. CST)

  • At the DuSable Museum Theater in Chicago

  • Speakers include Lt. Governor Julianna Stratton, the Vision of Restoration Peace Ambassador, Blank Slate creator Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, and special guests.

  • Local youth organizations will discuss with special guests the richness of Black history and legacy to empower a culture that is committed to peace, healing, and activism to address the ongoing violence in Chicago and surrounding suburbs.

  • Sponsored by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and Vision of Restoration.

Public Statue Viewing (Saturday, June 19 at 1:30 p.m. -5 p.m. CST)

  • At the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago

  • The Blank Slate statue is available to the public for observation, reflection, and participation in the conversation through an interactive Blank Slate screen at the top of the monument.

Akoto-Bamfo’s mission behind the statue and tour is to use art to forward the racial and social justice movements, help inspire the healing of the nation, and elevate the voices of the silenced and oppressed by giving people a platform to let themselves be heard. The Blank Slate statue has arrived from Detroit, Michigan and will continue the journey on a flatbed truck to cities across the nation including Pittsburgh, New York, Selma, Birmingham, Atlanta, and more. It will remain on display in Birmingham, Alabama until March 2022 when it is moved to a permanent location, determined by a multi-city bidding process.

“Black Art is critical to telling our history, from Africa through the slave trade, and our contribution in America. The Blank Slate Monument at the Dusable Museum is an incredible visual of our journey, yet offers a commemoration of those unjustly killed and an opportunity for truth and reconciliation to begin healing in our communities,” said Acting Executive Director for the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Delrice Adams.

“As a history teacher, I understand the importance of teaching Black youth their rich history. In order to feel connected and a sense of belonging we have to know from where we came. There is a movement to erase the History of Black America. This makes The Blank Slate Monument an important piece of art that represents our past but also brings hope for a better future,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

“We are at a pivotal time in this country. I truly believe our youth will lead us to a place of healing, social justice, and true reckoning. In order to lead and not feel hopeless, this generation of youth must feel their lives matter! Vision of Restoration thought it was important to bring The Blank Slate Monument to Chicago, because it acknowledges the lives of Black Americans and is an important art piece for youth to honor their history and our journey as African Americans,” said Executive Director of Vision of Restoration Larry James.

Akoto-Bamfo, best known for his outdoor “Nkyinkyim Installation” sculpture dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Transatlantic slave trade displayed at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, created the Blank Slate statue to challenge the overwhelming prevalence of this legacy by raising awareness of the entrenched issues in each city and inspire a dialogue for a more hopeful future. The statue is unapologetic in its representation of American history in the midst of today’s racial crisis and is a visual representation of the evolution of the African American experience and struggle— from the millions of enslaved men and women who were crucial to the foundation of the U.S., to the Black soldiers who died fighting in the Civil War, to the more recent lives of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Duante Wright, and innumerable others.

For more information, visit www.blankslatemonument.com.

 Contact: Martine Charles, 206-295-9114

[email protected]

About the Blank Slate Monument

The Blank Slate statue features four figures that symbolize the generational struggles in the African American experience: a slave ancestor, a lynched union soldier martyr, a struggling mother activist, and a baby representing the next generation. Whereas Confederate heroes are typically depicted standing atop “pedestals of privilege”, the figures in Blank Slate are standing on top of the only thing they have—each other— a powerful representation of how only through generations of determined cooperation can the underprivileged elevate each other enough to have a voice to speak truth to power. The monument culminates in an interactive protest sign held by the mother figure at the top, symbolizing the unwritten future of hope and healing. Through a dedicated WiFi system, the public can share on the screen their ideas and hopes for creating positive change in this country. The blank slate will be integrated with a #BlankSlateHope social campaign.

Kwame Akoto-Bamfo created the Blank Slate statue to pay tribute to the African American experience, challenge the overwhelming prevalence of the Confederate legacy in the United States, and inspire a dialogue for a more hopeful future. The statue is unapologetic in its representation of American history in the midst of today’s racial crisis and is a visual representation of the evolution of the African American experience and struggle— from the millions of enslaved men and women who were crucial to the foundation of the U.S., to the Black soldiers who died fighting in the Civil War, to the more recent lives of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Winston Smith, Duante Wright, and innumerable others.

About Kwame Akoto-Bamfo

Kwame Akoto-Bamfo is a Ghanaian sculptor best known for his outdoor “Nkyinkyim Installation” sculpture dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Transatlantic slave trade displayed at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. He created the Blank Slate statue to challenge the overwhelming prevalence of this legacy by raising awareness of the entrenched issues in each city and inspire a dialogue for a more hopeful future.

About The DuSable Museum of African American History

The DuSable Museum of African American History is the oldest independent black history museum in the nation. Our mission is to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans through exhibits, programs and activities that illustrate African and African American history, culture and art. The DuSable Museum is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate and for more information on the Museum and its programs, please call 773-947-0600 or visit us at www.dusablemuseum.org The DuSable Museum of African American History gratefully acknowledges the Chicago Park District’s partnership.

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