There are countless ways to honor the heroes among us everyday folks! One Florida city called Boynton Beach chose to celebrate its fire department with a mural at the station. What began as a symbol of recognition ended with the city’s first ever Black female firefighter filing a $100,000 lawsuit. According to The Daily Mail, Latosha Clemons is going against Boynton Beach for depicting her as a white woman in the mural.
“Being depicted as white was not only a false presentation of Clemons, it was also a depiction which completely disrespected all that Clemons, the first female black firefighter for the City, had accomplished,” the lawsuit states.
The mural was commissioned in 2019, but wasn’t unveiled until June 2020. A photograph featuring Latosha and two, white, female co-workers was used as a template, per The Palm Beach Post. Still, Latosha was inaccurately represented.
Turns out, she wasn’t the only person incorrectly depicted. Boynton Beach’s former Fire Chief Glenn Joseph is also a Black man who was painted as white. No recent reports have documented his reaction to the incident.
Nonetheless, the mural was removed one day after its reveal last year. The city’s public arts manager Debby Coles-Dobay was fired. Fire Chief Matthew Petty was removed from his role. However, Debby didn’t back down so easily. She reportedly told The Palm Beach Post last year that she was “pressured to make the mural the way it was by the city and Fire Chief’s Office.” As of recent reports, the dedication was corrected to properly reflect Latosha and Glenn’s race.
Latosha reportedly began her career as a firefighter in 1996 at Boynton Beach and Fire Rescue Department. She was the first Black woman to join since the station was established in 1924. Twenty years later, she moved up in ranking to a deputy chief. She was, once again, named the first Black woman to hold that position.
The lawsuit alleges that Latosha experienced “mental and emotional harm, pain and suffering and damage to personal and professional reputation.” The mural was commissioned in 2019, but wasn’t unveiled until June 2020. According to NBC News, Latosha had retired prior to the unveiling ceremony and did not attend because of a previous engagement. However, she quickly learned about the insulting error.
Latosha said she received multiple texts and photos from people who did attend. She expressed feeling “stunned, hurt, shocked.”
“I wanted little Black girls to look at that mural and know they can have their face on a mural,” Latosha said.
Latosha’s lawsuit also alleges that she experienced “ridicule, contempt, disgrace and/or humiliation both in the City Administration and in the community at large.”
Therefore, regardless of the updated mural, she’s seeking answers to how it came to be in the first place. She is scheduled to meet with city officials and a mediator on November 30.
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