Blank Slate Monumnet offers powerful experience

The Blank Slate Monument, currently on display at the Mary Moody Northen Plaza in Galveston, certainly offers more than what meets the eye.

While the physical statue is compelling enough — a slave bound hand and foot supporting a Union Army soldier with a noose around his neck and holding a tattered U.S. flag, who in turn is supporting a woman and a child — but there’s more. The artist’s vision includes an interactive signboard, allowing visitors to post inspiring messages via a Wi-Fi connection.

Visitors are able to easily log into an interface allowing them to place a personal message on the statue’s computer-aided board atop the statue.

The starkness of the Blank Slate Monument is eerily powerful as if inviting you to silent contemplation. The human plight and element projects across the intimate plaza.

Ghanaian artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo created the monument, said Rania Ahmed, founder of the Blank Slate Monument: Community Movement and Awareness Campaign.

“This is a tribute to the history of African Americans in the United States,” Ahmed said. “This originally started as a conceptual project to put a physical monument up in front of some of the confederate monuments that have been in question.”

Erecting the monument was a better alternative than calling for the removal of Confederate statues, Ahmed said.

“We’re not trying to erase history,” Ahmed said. “We’re just trying to tell all of it.

“We think that taking down monuments without context is not the right answer to preserve history and what’s happened in this country.”

So add yet another layer to the statue: telling of history’s unvarnished story, sharing both sides for context. And for many, this is an appreciated and underutilized point of view. History is most valuable when told in its unvarnished truth, allowing the receiver to learn and grow.

Galveston is the 20th and longest stop on the monument’s national tour. The monument has been featured in Times Square in New York City and Selma, Alabama, where it withstood a tornado, Ahmed said.

Sam Collins III, president of the Juneteenth Legacy Project, hopes someone will step forward to help make Galveston the forever home for the monument. Collins says the asking price for the piece is $1 million and would make an important donation to a future Juneteenth Museum in Galveston.

Collins and Sue Johnson, executive director of the Nia Cultural Center, 2217 Strand, helped bring the monument to Galveston in the first place.

“We want to make sure that our story is told,” Johnson said. “This monument is a great way to connect the history of Galveston internationally.”

The Nia Cultural Center partnered with the Rosenberg Library because the cultural center did not have the facilities to display the installation, Johnson said.

“This monument could help people be inspired and reflect on the African-American experience,” Johnson said.

The library was honored to host the monument, Mike Miller, executive director, said.

“It’s such an important message, especially during these times,” Miller said. “It’s a great idea, that’s why we did it.”

The Blank Slate Monument was installed at Mary Moody Northen Plaza near Rosenberg Library, 2310 Sealy Avenue, where it will remain for about three months and on display through July 5.

We encourage you to visit and experience this powerful and unique display. If you wish to learn more or contribute, reach out to the Nia Cultural Center at 409-765-7086.

The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation funds and supports The Nia Cultural Center's Juneteenth Legacy Project.

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