Statement in Response to Nomadic Press’ and EastSide Arts Alliance’s call for the removal of their SFPL exhibition Painting the Streets

Statement in Response to Nomadic Press’ and EastSide Arts Alliance’s call for the removal of the exhibition Painting the Streets: Oakland Uprising in the Time of Rebellion and boycott of the accompanying panel discussion

Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) is deeply grateful to Nomadic Press & EastSide Arts Alliance for canceling and calling for the removal of their exhibition Painting the Streets in response to the censorship of the Wall + Response exhibition.

By singling out and censoring the experiences of Palestinians, a community historically and disproportionately marginalized and disenfranchised, the San Francisco Public Library has created a divisive environment. While art may challenge dominant narratives, causing difficult and uncomfortable conversations, the harm to community comes from structural racism including institutions ignoring or denying the experiences of those experiencing oppression. That is not only harmful, but it is also dangerous; especially at this point in history when there are large factions of the United States banning works that speak to the importance and value of critical thinking and the lived experiences of communities which have and continue to experience racism and oppression by a dominant culture. As noted by Ralph Ellison in his essay “Hidden Name and Complex Fate, A Writer’s Experience in the United States”:

It is our fate as human beings always to give up some good things for other good things, to throw off certain bad circumstances only to create others. Thus, there is a value for the writer in trying to give as thorough a report of social reality as possible. Only by doing so may we grasp and convey the cost of change. Only by considering the broadest accumulation of data may we make choices that are based upon our own hard-earned sense of reality. Speaking from my own special area of American culture, I feel that to embrace uncritically values which are extended to us by others is to reject the validity, even the sacredness, of our own experience. It is also to forget that the small share of reality which each of our diverse groups is able to snatch from the whirling chaos of history belongs not to the group alone, but to all of us. It is a property and a witness which can be ignored only to the danger of the entire nation.

Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP), along with the participants of the Wall + Response project continue to hold out hope for the San Francisco Public Library to recognize the importance of inclusivity and racial equity and not censor the exhibition and instead use it as an opportunity for public discourse and healing.

The public can read the full exchange between the library and the curators HERE.

The public can also read the statement by the Wall + Response curators, artists, poets, and community-based organizations HERE.