The black-and-white American flags that College officials asked Black Student Union (BSU) members to take down from around campus last semester have reappeared.
Senior administrators asked BSU to remove the flags in December because the organization had not complied with the College’s approval process for public art installations. The committee responsible for overseeing public art installations is chaired by Director of the Gund Gallery Natalie Marsh and comprises of faculty, staff and students appointed by President Sean Decatur.
The flags, painted with statistics and quotes from prominent Civil Rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Assata Shakur, originally appeared across campus on Dec. 4. After meeting with Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 and other senior staffers in December, BSU registered the flags as an installation art exhibit through Feb. 28, according to Student-Info emails from BSU and Bonham. The flags will hang in their original locations from last semester: on the side of Rosse Hall’s steps, on the outside of the BSU lounge’s window in Peirce Dining Hall and on the banister above the main entrance to Peirce.
The BSU explained in their Student-Info email that the black-and-white American flag is symbolic of economic recession and the plight of black Americans and a longtime symbol of black activism in America. “Specifically, the black lines stand in as a call for unity within the black community and as a symbol of historical and current segregation,” the email read. “It serves as a symbol for past and present.”
BSU’s art exhibit comes at a time when the American political climate has been particularly contentious. In the email, BSU cited reports of increased harassment toward minority groups since the U.S. presidential election as a reason for invoking the symbolism of the flags. Their email expressed hope that the exhibit will spark a campus-wide conversation about issues of discrimination and motivate students to take action.
“This flag that we hold so dearly is an image that is supposed to represent us all,” the email read. “Yet, often the flag is more valued than the lives of those who pledge their allegiance to it.”
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