Man who tore down racist mural 50 years ago wants say in replacement

Omali Yeshitela protested with others outside St. Pete City Hall on Tuesday.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — News photos from 1966 document the act that sent Joe Waller, now known as Omali Yeshitela, to prison for more than two years.

Waller led a march to City Hall and ripped down a racist mural that showed black musicians with exaggerated facial features, playing at a picnic.

A blank wall on the grand staircase at city hall marks the spot where the mural once hung.

50 years later, a committee is now tasked with finding something to replace the mural.

“Something that can either heal what happened here in the city, or if the city deems that it should remain blank, then that would be fine with me as well,” said Stacia Schrader, of the Public Art Committee.

But Omali Yeshitela, the man who tore down the mural, opposes the city’s efforts.

“What the city is attempting to do now, is to replace that mural that was there with an image that pre-supposes that things have gotten so much better for African people in this city subsequent to then. We say, ‘That’s a lie’,” said Yeshitela.

On Tuesday, Yeshitela joined about a dozen others from the Uhuru movement on the steps of city hall to protest plans for the new mural.

”In preparing for this proposal, the city has made no attempt to talk to me or any of the other surviving men” he said.

An Art Committee member said Yeshitela is welcome to help. “Absolutely any citizen is,” said Stacia Schrader.

The city is allocating $10,000 for the mural replacement.

“I think if we get really good submissions, we’ll find an artist that’s respectful of the past, but will embrace their interpretation of where we are now,” said Bob Devin Jones, with the Public Arts Committee.


Mural 2

Mural 3



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