BOSTON (CBS) – A little more than two weeks ago, Dorchester native and social media influencer Tory Bullock took Facebook to raise awareness about a statue he has seen as offensive since he was a kid. It’s known as the Emancipation Statue and it shows a towering President Lincoln standing over a kneeling former enslaved man. The man’s wrists are shackled and he is wearing no shirt or shoes.
“My issue is not America and my issue is not freedom, it is the naked black man sitting in front that I have a problem with,” he said.
Bullock started a petition to remove the statue that sits in Park Square about a block behind the public garden near the Park Plaza Hotel. It quickly racked up thousands of signatures and sparked a lot of conversation. “From, ‘Oh my gosh you are speaking to me. My son sees this statue and he hates it,’ all the way to the other side, ‘What are you doing? You hate America. You hate Lincoln,” Bullock explained.
Bullock listened to both sides and so did the Boston Art Commission which ultimately voted unanimously to remove the statue. “I’m not just happy that it’s coming down, I’m happy with the way it’s coming down,” he said. “It wasn’t just a group of protestors and people saying, ‘Hey take this down,’ and a battle ensuing. It was a process.” Bullock said describing the emails, phone calls and social media comments that fueled the movement.
The Boston Art Commission also held an online forum to hear both sides. “I think all of us felt that this was a great opportunity, especially in light of Tory Bullock’s petition to open up the dialogue to the citizens of Boston,” explained commission member Ekua Holmes.
The Commission is now weighing ideas on how to move the statue into a setting with a more historical context. But Holmes believes this open conversation could be applied to other public works of art that have been criticized. But for now, she says, the members will be working hard on this project. “It’s a great move for Boston,” she said.
For Bullock, who loves his city but also has his share of criticisms, this is a big deal. “For Boston to be the first city to come up with the process on how to deal with these controversial statues, while the rest of the nation is just arguing with each other…I’m feeling very proud of Boston right now,” he said.