Petition starts for new display of student artwork

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Updated: Saturday, August 13, 2016 @ 2:04 AM
Published: Wednesday, May 04, 2016 @ 10:53 PM
By: Breaking News Staff

An online petition has been started for a new display of the student artwork taken down from the Dayton Convention Center by the city.

The petition by Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, parent advocate/organizer and director of Racial Justice NOW! came to light tonight.

Already, more than 100 people have signed the petition, which asks the city to:

* “Reverse its decision to censor young people and put the art back on display”

* “Acknowledge and repair the harm caused to these students”

* “Co-create with grassroots organizations a community dialogue that encourages students and other disenfranchised community members to speak up and actively engage in the political process and social justice concerns.”

Sankara-Jabar spoke earlier this evening to the Dayton City Commission on the student artwork issue.

UPDATE @ 8:30 p.m.: Dayton Commissioner Joey Williams publicly apologized to high school students whose artwork was taken down from the Dayton Convention Center by the city, saying he realizes they worked hard on the exhibit and were invited to display the work.

“I think it’s important for us to actually go on record and say that what occurred was not appropriate, and we’ll do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said during the City Commission meeting at City Hall.

The artwork was produced by ninth-grade students in a U.S. history class at the Dayton Regional STEM School.

The series of silhouettes depict protests, police encounters, the Black Lives Matter movement, hip hop and events including police fatally shooting John Crawford III at the Beavercreek Walmart.

Arch Grieve, the school’s community outreach director, said the students researched marginalized groups throughout U.S. history and created posters focused on women and African Americans that draw comparisons between past and present.

The students spent about a month researching and created artwork exploring and questioning how stereotypes, police interactions, culture and protests have evolved, he said.

A few hours before Wednesday night’s commission meeting, the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to the city asking that a public apology be issued, one that acknowledges the city’s obligation to protect the free speech of students and the public.

In February, the city had the artwork removed. It had been on display for a day or two.

City recreation director Robin Williams said convention center officials received multiple complaints about the works and decided to no longer host public art exhibits.

City Manager Shelley Dickstein said the convention center is a business center that contracts with a wide variety of private groups. She and Williams said the city has a responsibility to remain politically and socially unbiased for the center’s customers and to all citizens.

Grieve said, “We’re grateful for the city for not just saying, ‘No you can’t put it up,’ but taking time with the students to explain why it was taken down.”

Christine Link, executive director, ACLU of Ohio, said the city’s removal of the artwork was an “inexcusable act of censorship.”

She was joined in that assessment by Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, director of Racial Justice NOW!, who said the city deserves praise for being a strong advocate for some minority groups — including immigrants and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community — but has demonstrated a pattern of ignoring or remaining silent on police violence, police brutality and inequitable treatment of black residents.

“We haven’t seen that same level of solidarity and support and making sure those kinds of things don’t continue to happen unchecked,” she said.


The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has asked the city of Dayton to apologize for removing student artwork from the Dayton Convention Center that claims to depict stereotypes and historical hardships of black people.

The city of Dayton was sent a letter Wednesday afternoon by the ACLU asking it issue a public apology that acknowledges its free speech obligations to students and the public.

“The decision by city officials to remove student artwork because of its political nature is an inexcusable act of censorship,” said Christine Link, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, in a release.

“Dayton is telling its young people that the answer to speech you don’t agree with is to silence the speaker,” Link said in the statement. “If we really value free expression and teaching young people to think for themselves, we must be prepared for messages that are difficult to hear.”

The city removed the art at the convention center after a day or two, officials said. The art features silhouettes that address police brutality, civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement.

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