Scrubbing off the hate: Artist removes racial slurs from his mural celebrating diversity

Updated: Jul. 6, 2020 at 6:21 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - McClellan Douglas was told to expect hate for making a mural celebrating diversity, but the fact that he should expect backlash at all further motivated his art.

Although being prepared didn't make seeing racial slurs on his mural any less heartbreaking.

"I expected someone to drive by and yell something hateful, but I didn't expect that," Douglas said pointing to where "kill all (slur)" was still visible earlier that morning.

Douglas calls the mural sitting on the side of a building on Rosewood Drive near the Assembly Street intersection a celebration of the diversity of his hometown.

"It's my interpretation of how I see Columbia and the South really. I was trying to do an inclusive interpretation that includes all races and creeds," he said.

The mural is being done in conjunction with the non-profit Haven Home, which was launched by Realty Haven to help create affordable housing.

Douglas believes he will finish the mural in two to three weeks and is determined to work longer days to stay on track. Once the mural is complete, the walls of the Realty Haven building will be an interwoven tapestry of South Carolinians of different backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, ethnicity and ages.

For example, in the coming days he plans to add a portrayal of his grandfather Joseph William Douglas, a former brigadier general and Columbia postmaster.

But, he made a conscious choice to begin his mural with images of African-American figures who inspire him.

The first three people drawn were an African American woman wearing some traditional Gullah accessories, his good friend’s niece and a woman named Tricia who Douglas says carries with her the strength and power to be the cornerstone of this piece.

Soon he will add his fellow Columbia artist Cedric Umoja who he calls an “uncompromising Black voice.”

"We wanted to put a spotlight on Black people right now, just a show of solidarity," Douglas said. "It's obvious they are hurting right now, but I thought it'd be a good show of love to do them first," he added.

He says being able to surround himself with people from all different backgrounds is something he cherishes about South Carolina and is a blessing he never wants to omit from his art.

“I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t add them into everything I do, just as I would do anybody else”

Douglas also painted this mural in a way he hopes will make it stand out and catch people's attention. On the East and West side of the majority blue mural is a different palate of reds, yellows, and oranges.

Douglas said he did this so that when the sun rises or sets it hits the mural and elevates its colors. He also added, South Carolina’s natural beauty is another of his favorite parts about living in the Palmetto State.

After three hours of work, Douglas just looked at his mural, now cleansed of any hate, and simply said “it feels like home.”

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