The artist-led For Freedoms super PAC has erected a billboard on Highway 80 outside Pearl, Mississippi that features President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” atop a well-known Civil Rights-era photograph by Spider Martin of a confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
Reactions from locals have been strong and area news station WDAM concluded: “If their mission was to stimulate conversation in a state with a racial history like Mississippi, they have and some of that conversation is angry.”
WMCActionNews reached out to Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, who called the billboard reprehensible. “It’s disappointing that this group would use this image as an attempt to divide the country,” he told the news station.
Hyperallergic spoke to Eric Gottesman of For Freedoms to understand the group’s choice of image and location. He explained:
As part of a billboard campaign initiated by For Freedoms in October, we placed billboards in Pearl, Mississippi, and several other sites around the country. Our hope was to spark dialogue about our collective civic responsibility to push for freedom and justice today, as those before us pushed for freedom and justice in their time through peaceful protest and political participation.
Interestingly, Pearl became a town in 1968 after its citizens voted to incorporate. The billboards in Pearl at that time encouraged citizens to vote for incorporation with the slogan ‘Think about it …’. We can’t imagine a better slogan for how we want people to react to our billboards.
We hope all who see our billboards think about them, talk about them, protest them, and let us and each other know their feelings. Only this will lead to a greater America.
Pearl Mayor Brad Rogers spoke with Marty Elrod, the general manager of Lamar advertising, which controls the ad space, and told WDAM that they agreed to take it down early next week.
The reactions on social media appear to be dominated by anger:
who tf put this billboard up anyways? come on mississippi
— jb (@jb_theog) November 18, 2016
not cool race riot tyme https://t.co/utp8LtWgRE
— LADY-LUC$IOUS (@sophiabrown9) November 18, 2016
“Black ppl need to stop bringing up racism how are we supposed to move on as a country” meanwhile in Mississippi this billboard is up pic.twitter.com/zwve0YILxb
— Airmax95sGawd (@Texanstradamus) November 18, 2016
Billboard in Mississippi. What’s next a picture if women being assaulted with Trump’s slogan. pic.twitter.com/kiotVUrvSD
— LoriRN0901 (@LoriPLuther) November 17, 2016
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.