‘Oh, NOLA’: New Orleans mayor touts giant afro pick sculpture intended to honor the black experience

New Orleans is a historic city with a rich tradition of music, food, artwork and architecture but the latest addition to the Big Easy’s culture has left many scratching their heads after Democrat Mayor LaToya Cantrell proudly unveiled a sculpture of a gigantic afro hair pick just in time for the recognition of Juneteenth, the newest national holiday.

The controversial monument is a part of the “Monumental Tour,” a traveling collection of large-scale artwork by black artists, that according to its website are “Situated on carefully considered public sites, the works call attention to each artist’s distinct visual voice and engage with one another in a curated discourse. Collectively, the works honor and examine aspects of the African American experience, from the first slaves brought over in the 16th century to the present-day prison pipeline, and the struggle for liberation in between.”

“Individually, the sculptures invite the viewer to consider themes such as: colonization, oppression, privilege, Black middle-class labor, and the decline of industry, Black pride, Black power, Black joy, and subjugation. Each work is an invitation to viewers from any background to learn about and connect with a narrative or era they may not have endured personally, but one which continues to impact the African American experience,” the group’s website states.

With the strains of jazz music playing in the background, the giant afro pick topped with a peace sign and a clenched black fist was unveiled in Lafayette Square on Friday.

The 28 foot tall, 7,000 pound steel afro pick named “All Power to All People” was created by artist Hank Willis Thomas and is described on the tour’s website:

“Around the 20th century, Afro combs started to take on a definite cultural and political meaning. The “black fist” was added to the bottom of many Afro combs and is a reference to the Black Power salute that was made popular during the 1960’s civil rights movement. In addition to using the pick as a styling tool, many Black men and women wore the picks in their Afros as a way to express their cultural pride. The Afro pick exists today as many things to different people: it is representative not only of an era, but a sound and a counter culture. It is a uniting motif, worn as adornment, a political emblem, and signature of collective identity.”

“Breathtaking,” Mayor Cantrell gushed, in a tweet along with an image of the giant hair pick in the scenic historic setting.

However, not everyone was as impressed with many expressing disbelief at the monument.

“Imagine being mayor of a major city, spending money on a monument that depicts the accomplishments of black people, and deciding on a hair pick. They would recall a white mayor for demeaning us. Instead, we’ll shout “Yaass Queen” and pretend nothing is wrong,” wrote Jason Whitlock of Fearless.

Other Twitter users reacted to Cantrell and her the two-story afro pick.

“This sculpture is very fitting for this time and place,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office wrote in an email to NOLA.com. “As we celebrate the freedoms that we have gained this Juneteenth, we know that it does not come without struggles, without fights and without protests for more than 200 years. The fight and struggle for equality, respect and freedom continue to this day for those of us who continue to be discriminated against because of the color of our skin and the texture and style of our hair.”

“The spokesperson did not answer questions about the cost of the project,” the outlet reported.

Last week, Cantrell also unveiled the city’s new Tupac Shakur Peace Pole.

The Crescent City may not yet be in the upper echelon of cities destroyed by Democrats like New York, Chicago and San Francisco but it isn’t for lack of trying.

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