The message that read “There are Black People in the Future” above a building in East Liberty was approved to return to its perch, after a weeklong ordeal which saw the sign initially removed due to concerns from unnamed citizens.
But the sign isn’t up at the corner of S. Highland Avenue and Baum Blvd. yet. That’s because there’s a chance the sign could be placed in a different location.
In an exclusive interview, Alisha Wormsley, the artist behind the “There are Black People in the Future” sign and movement, told the New Pittsburgh Courier that “I knew what it could mean, and I wasn’t surprised, but I was surprised,” after initially learning about the sign’s removal.
[pullquote]“We have an opportunity as a community to stop and think about how we can make the neighborhood more of what we want it to be.”
Kelly Strayhorn Theater[/pullquote]The sign went up in early March, and stayed for three weeks until property manager Eve Picker told Carnegie Mellon University associate professor Jon Rubin, who rents the space where the sign rested, that it had to come down due to a violation of policy.
After a public outcry, Picker told Rubin that the sign could go back up.
The Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty hosted an open discussion between the public, Rubin and Wormsley, April 18. It was the first time both Rubin and Wormsley spoke on the subject in a public forum.
After opening comments from Kelly Strayhorn Theater executive director Janera Solomon, Rubin and Wormsley, some in the audience bluntly asked the trio when and if the sign would go back up.
“We’re working on something, that’s all we can say right now,” Rubin told the audience, who cheered afterward.
Pressed further, Rubin told the Courier that “no one else is hindering” the ability for the sign to return to its original spot, but declined to comment further.
Wormsley told the Courier exclusively that it was “absolutely” up to Wormsley and Rubin if the sign would return to its original location.
When asked if Wormsley wants the billboard with her message on it to be returned to its original spot, she told the Courier, after a pause, “No, but we’re working on something.”
There is no timetable as to when an announcement could be made about the sign’s next location if it is not returned to Highland and Baum.
Solomon told the Courier that she wants to see the sign returned somewhere in East Liberty. “As a piece of art, I think it’s always important to have art that makes you think,” Solomon said. “So, just having art around us that makes you pause, consider, ask questions…I think it’s important for every community to have that all the time.”
Speaking specifically to the “There are Black People in the Future” sign, Solomon said that “we have an opportunity as a community to stop and think about how we can make the neighborhood more of what we want it to be.”
Solomon talked of gentrification having a beginning, a middle and an end to its story. “And I think before we reach the end of East Liberty’s story, whatever that ending is, in this moment we have a chance to contribute and say, wait a minute, this is a neighborhood that values art, we don’t take art down just because we don’t agree with it.”
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