Friday, May 05, 2017

Why are Ward 8 murals so overwhelmingly male?

I'm a feminist. 

And I make no apologies. I consistently speak my mind, I constantly demand a seat at the table and regularly demonstrate "unladylike behavior" (translation: I'm confident and make no apologies). I represent even when I am not represented. I do not allow anyone to make me feel anything other than amazing. Because of that, at any time there are several men (and quite a few women) who are offended by my so called "assertive" behavior. I do not allow anyone, ever to put me in a corner and get away with it. I'm Black. I'm female. I'm unapologetic. 

Despite assumptions to the contrary,  I in fact do know my place -- anywhere I damn well please!

That said, the election of a women-hating misogynist by a women-hating public has left me looking at the world with perfectly-lashed but open eyes. I constantly question how and where women are represented and why.  What I used to think was an oversight feels more intentional. 

So I have to ask the question. Why are Ward 8 murals so male? Where are the women?!

For a ward that is made up of so many women leading so many households why aren't we represented in its public art? To be fair, most Ward 8 murals feature the same four subjects: Malcolm, Martin, Marion & Frederick. And while I can definitely understand the sentiment and the respect that was meant by honoring those individuals we are also desperately in need of more diverse subject matter. 

When it comes to Ward 8 public art, women are once again lost and missing. I have been living in Ward 8 for nearly a decade and the only mural I am aware of that features a woman is this beautiful piece that is located on the garage of a private home in Congress Heights. 

Private home on Malcolm X Ave SE

I drive past this mural at least twice a day. And each time I acknowledge its haunting beauty, but at the same time I am reminded that it is solitary in its subject matter. I'm not entirely sure who the women is supposed to be, sometimes I think it's Lauren Hill or perhaps it's a representation of the black female collective? Bold, beautiful and brave despite what can be an exclusionary place?

When I am west of the river I see these beautiful murals of diverse subject matters. Male and female, historic and modern, bright and beautiful, dark and brooding and I wish we could see more of that creative diversity in my own community. There are a lot of badass women who live and work in Ward 8 and it would be nice if we could see ourselves -- our lady boss selves -- represented publicly for all to see. 

My most favorite mural in all of DC is the one featured at Dacha beer garden. I think it's a mural of Elizabeth Taylor and she just captivates me with her expression. She's knowing and she's fierce. She gives the ultimate side-eye.  She represents the female collective, the unapologetic badassness of being a women in a man's world. The beauty of being female and the power and the sway of it.  

Dacha Beer Garden, photo courtesy of

I visited the MuralsDC website and I was amazed by some of the murals west of the river that feature female subjects. I just don't understand why the same can't be said for Ward 8. 

It's 2017. What kind of picture are we painting as a community when 50% of our population is not being represented in our public art? What are we saying (or not saying) about the role that women play?  Why can't we have murals that feature the diversity and beauty of our souls - past, present and future?

When do I get to see Eartha Kitt in all of her amazing Catwoman glory loud and proud in Congress Heights?! How can we make that happen? DC Commission of the Arts & Humanities and Murals DC I am looking at you, can you see me? 

Including  photos of some truly beautiful murals west of the river that feature women. Photos courtesy of MuralsDC. 

Mural Title: Reloaded
312 Florida Avenue, NW
Donated By: Kuumba Kollectibles
Artist(s): Aneikan Udofia
Year: 2013

Location: 4411 14th Street, NW
Donated By: XI Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc.
s): Kate Deciccio & Rose Jaffe
Year: 2016

Mural Title: Support Our Troops
Location: 1513 Rhode Island Avenue, NE

Donated By: Good Ole Reliable Liquors
Artist(s): Hamilton Glass
Year: 2013


Anonymous said...

Cool post.

DaReslnt1 said...

I must've missed these

maxine daniels said...

What is the purpose of this missive?

Julie Jonas said...

I think that's Michael Jackson in the Malcolm X Ave. mural. Anyhow, no one is stopping your fierceness from painting women in art. Better yet, why not comission a woman artist from the neighborhood to paint woman in a mural. She will appreciate being properly paid for her efforts.