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September 25, 2011Posted Wednesday, October 5, 2011, at 3:46 PM
We met last Monday evening as your city government. We started at 7:00 and were finished by 9:00. We voted to grant a liquor license for Sunday sales to our new drug store. There was almost no discussion. In my lifetime there would have been much discussion. I am not opposed to the sale of liquor, but in my lifetime the State of Missouri did not allow the sale of real beer on Sunday. The world has changed. The State of Missouri now runs the numbers racket, but we call it a lottery. We, as a people, voted to legalize gambling a number of years ago but restrict it to so called riverboats. I don't know whether the intent was to limit gambling opportunities or hope that the sinners would drown.
We voted to spend $45,000 of your money on a piece of equipment which will demolish derelict buildings, repair streets, help with the water and sewer department, and apparently do all kinds of good work. I believe it was a good purchase, and if we did the math correctly it will save us some money. We spent $45,000, and we did it wisely or foolishly depending on your point of view.
We had an issue that for once did not directly involve money. I have said frequently that politics is really just about dividing up the public's money. There are exceptions. Councilman Robinson raised the issue of the mural on the wall of the Malden Community Center. He and some of his constituents are not comfortable with its depiction of African-Americans. If I have misspoken, please correct me. Most of you are familiar with the mural. Every human in the picture, with one exception, is an African-American. I won't attempt to describe the mural in detail. Neither would I attempt to describe any work of art except in the most general terms. If you are interested, go take a look at the mural in our community center.
The mural is there because in 1977, when I was a whole lot younger, my friend Salli Ware was living and teaching in Memphis. She had painted the mural but was moving to become a member of the faculty at East Tennessee State University where she would teach art. I got the idea to place it on the wall of our then new community center, and I volunteered to go get the mural if Salli would let us have it. We struck a deal, and it's been on the wall for thirty-four years.
Is it a racist painting? I don't think so, but that's just my opinion.
Ms. Ware is now retired and living in Malden and serves as the head of our arts commission. Does the mural cause comment? Yes, it does, and that's what makes it art. Art, whether it is music, poetry, drama, literature, or sculpture, should make us think. Art should cause a reaction; otherwise it is just paint on a surface. I have had more white people complain about the mural than African-Americans. It embarrasses some people of all races. I believe that they possibly would like to ignore the past.
If that same mural were hanging in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee or an art gallery at a historically black college such as Jackson State, Fisk University, or Lincoln University, I believe African-Americans would take their children or themselves to see it. The mural should be and can be what is known as a "teaching moment." Ms. Ware was born and raised in Malden and has moved back to live with us. She may raise a knot on my head for saying it, but we are truly fortunate that we have an artist of her stature living here. You can talk to Salli about her work if you are reasonably polite. I think she will tell you what she sees, but she will be more interested in what you see.
500 years after Michelangelo carved his statue of DAVID, there are people who still want to cover it up. I don't believe that will happen. Michelangelo's DAVID is considered among many interpretations as a great monument to civil rights and human dignity. Maybe our local art can start a public conversation.
The financial report is as follows:
September 16, 2011
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From the desk of Mayor Ray Santie