The Frank Rizzo statue may still be standing, but the cop who became mayor might be a little surprised by his neighbor, a 12-foot-tall sculpture of an Afro Pick with a “Black Power”-style raised fist at its end.
The sculpture was installed as part of Monument Lab, a Philadelphia art festival that is installing new public art installations around the city while inviting residents to participate in discussions about the significance and purpose behind monuments around the city.
The Afro pick statue is titled ”All Power to All People” and is by artist Hank Willis Thomas. It was installed on Thomas Paine Plaza Tuesday night as a ‘prototype monument’ and had already kicked up a whirlwind of interest from the public by Wednesday morning, the day the project launched.
Many cheered the Afro pick as a symbol of defiance against Rizzo, the former mayor and police commissioner who was criticized for his conduct toward the black community and whose monument stands about 100 feet from the pick.
Since a wave of outrage over statues hit the country after a massive alt-right and white supremacist rally in Charlottesville around a Civil War statue, the Rizzo statue has become a target in Philly, with various individuals egging it and spray painting it, leading to it being fenced off and detailed with police officers for protection.
City Council on Thursday is expected to hear public requests that the statue to Rizzo be removed from the front of the Municipal Services Building, where it stands across the street from City Hall.
But not everyone loved the Afro pick.
Elizabeth Wellington wrote for the Inquirer that the sculpture is “a letdown,” as its placement appeared to her to be subordinating the pick to Rizzo.
“The statue of Rizzo remains like a God to those who worship him and a menace those who fear him. The sculpture of the pick … appears small and afraid,” she wrote.
Monument Lab, sponsored by the Mural Arts Program, will be holding a citywide conversation from Sept. 16 to Nov. 19 about the nature of monuments.
Public art installations around Philadelphia as part of Monument Lab include projects in Malcolm X Park, in Washington, Logan, Franklin and Rittenhouse squares, and all around Center City.
To learn more, visit monumentlab.muralarts.org.