Elgin Hosts June 7 Community Dialogue About Controversial Mural

Elgin Hosts June 7 Community Dialogue About Controversial Mural

In response to the public outcry about a mural depicting a crowd’s response to a lynching in Indiana, the city of Elgin’s Human Relations Commission is sponsoring a community dialogue on Tuesday, June 7.

Hosted by the city’s Human Relations Commission, the event titled It’s Not About The Art: It’s About The History — A Courageous Community Conversation will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, at the Heritage Ballroom, Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way. The event is free, and doors open at 6:45 p.m.

Pastor Bob Whitt will serve as moderator of a panel that includes Elgin Human Relations Commission chair Bill Williamson, Elgin Human Relations Commissioner Danise Habun and School District U-46 board member Traci Ellis.

The HRC news release acknowledged that the mural, titled American Nocturne, has been “a hot topic of debate” within the Elgin community.

“This Courageous Community Conversation … will not focus on the mural itself,” the release said. “Rather, the focus will be on what triggered the wide range of visceral reactions of members of our community and how we, as a community, can leverage all of these reactions/responses to the mural (as metaphor) into an opportunity for truth speaking and creating positive actions/change for the community as a whole.”

The controversy began after a viewer noted on social media that the mural depicted a crowd reaction in a famous 1930 photo about the lynching of two black men in Indiana. David Powers, the artist who created the mural, has underlined that the artwork is meant to show the horror of the historic event in order to create conversation and better understanding. Still, the public reaction brought out many strong emotions, and the mural, which had been set in downtown Elgin location near a park, was moved over the Memorial Day weekend to the Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way.

Established by ordinance, The Elgin Human Relations Commission exists to investigate allegations of discrimination related to employment or housing within the city of Elgin, promote and foster positive relations between the various diverse groups of our community, monitor compliance of city vendor contracts and act as an advisor to the city of Elgin on all matters related involving prejudices or discrimination and recommends such corrective or legislative actions as it may deem appropriate. Commissioners are appointed by the City Council. Current commissioners include Aloun Khotisene, Elisa Lara, Bill Williamson, Danise Habun, Rich Jacobs and Winfried Cooper.