Two Florida Officials Fired for Whitewashing the Faces of Black Firefighters on a Public Mural

Illustration for article titled Two Florida Officials Fired for Whitewashing the Faces of Black Firefighters on a Public Mural
Photo: Shutterstock (Shutterstock)

The level of headassery that’s endemic to Florida is truly astounding. Even in a situation designed to be a layup, they find a way to turn it into an airball. Take, for instance, a recently unveiled mural that whitewashed the faces of two black firefighters.


NBC News reports that two city officials in Boynton Beach, Fla., have been fired for whiting out the faces of Latosha Clemons and Glenn Joseph on a mural dedicated to the firefighters.

“The City Manager has concluded her inquiry into this matter and issued a public apology to Deputy Chief of Operations Latosha Clemons and Chief Glenn Joseph for the alterations of their photos ... and the mural was removed Thursday, June 4,” the city manager said in a statement to NBC News.

Clemons was the only Black female firefighter in the city and the first Black woman to become deputy fire chief in Boynton Beach. She has since hired an attorney to investigate how this even happened in the first place. “My role is to get to who is responsible, how they came to the conclusion it was acceptable — and to push the issue for the need to examine policies and determine whether or not there needs to be racial sensitivity training,” Nicole Hunt Jackson, the attorney for Clemons, told NBC News. Jackson has filed a request to obtain all records related to the planning of the mural.

Clemons, understandably, has expressed dismay over the situation. “I was stunned, hurt, shocked. I had to suppress my emotions, but after the event a ton of emotions came over me.” said Clemons, who retired from the force only a few months ago. She didn’t attend the unveiling but was flooded with calls and texts from friends expressing disbelief at what happened. “I wanted little Black girls to look at that mural and know they can have their face on a mural,” Clemons said. The community of Boynton Beach was outraged when the mural was initially revealed.

From NBC News:

Pastor Rae Whitely of the Boynton Beach Coalition of Clergy, an interfaith group that “works to empower the black and brown communities,” Whitely said. “Just to know the fire chief was a part of that conversation makes you ask, ‘What else has been going on? What other influence has he had in decisions?’”

Whitely said “social media erupted” after the unveiling of the mural. He said he and other leaders have had to calm down some activists “who really want to do some stuff. Young people are pissed, and so are people who served with her — Black and white. It was obvious that this was not a mistake.”


Whitely has described Clemons as a “local hero,” to some of the residents in the community. “To have this happen to her in the climate we are in, it just reaggravated the trauma. It was unreal.” Whitely told NBC News. The mural is going to be replaced with the original design though there is no set date for when that will happen.

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