A mother and her son walking Sunday evening noticed that the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center in downtown Phoenix had been defaced, Board President of the center Princess Crump said.
The N-word was spray-painted on the front sidewalk and swastikas on the building’s columns. The incident was immediately reported to the bias crime and graffiti busters division of the Phoenix Police Department, which was able to help remove the message and paint over it the next morning, she said.
While the museum is not open due to COVID-19, Crump’s phone was “flooding with calls,” after the incident appeared in the media. Some people would call her in tears, she said.
“I’m just so sad that someone took so much time to locate the facility and to put up a symbol of hate and intimidation,” Crump said.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted on Monday that “The horrific display of hate at the George Washington Carver Museum is reprehensible. An attack like this has no place in our community.”
Group undeterred in work to preserve building’s history
However, Crump said she and the community were not deterred by this message.
“It’s just paint. It’s not going to deter us from finishing up the restoration of this project. Though it targeted African Americans, it engaged people of the Jewish community, and it’s uplifting the community to come together and finish the restoration,” Crump said.
The museum has a history of segregation, which is why it is being restored to serve as a cultural center for the community, Crump said.
The building first opened in 1926 as the Phoenix Union Colored High School, a school for African Americans. It was the only high school for Black students in the state at that time. Its graduates included two members of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, African American pilots who flew combat missions in World War II.
After Arizona enacted desegregation laws in 1954, the building was repurposed, and eventually bought back by alumni in 1996.
The Carver Museum houses a collection of artifacts and memorabilia to represent what life was like when the school was open, including musical instruments, appliances and sports trophies.
It’s obvious the purpose of this school is needed in today’s political climate, Crump said.
The museum created a GoFundMe on Monday afternoon to raise money for its preservation work.
‘Haters are feeling very emboldened these days’
“There is so much hate and divisiveness in our world, and I think the haters are feeling very emboldened these days to come right out with their hateful messages and it’s very distressing to see,” said Tammy Gillies, Regional Director with the Anti-Defamation League.
Gillies also discussed how she thinks these incidents can be addressed.
The best thing to do is speak out against these actions and report them to law enforcement and the ADL because data drives policy, she said.
Gillies also emphasized the importance of education in addressing what she has seen to be a spike in hate crimes throughout Arizona.
“Going into the new school year, the ADL has 55 schools signed up to be ‘no place for hate’ schools, meaning they will work with the ADL to create a culture of acceptance and inclusion for students,” she said.
Gillies said it’s important to call out hate, cover it up and track it, but education is required to change the next generations.
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