Black Lives Matter chalk drawings recently created on the popular Fay Avenue Bike Path between La Jolla Village and Bird Rock have touched off a community controversy over the proper place of politically motivated art in public spaces.
At La Jolla Parks & Beaches, Inc.’s Oct. 26 meeting, Earl Edwards, athletic director at UC San Diego, was invited to address questions arising from LJPB board members’ comments about the bike path BLM chalk art from a previous meeting. Two board members had questioned the legality of unauthorized chalk art about BLM in the public right-of-way on the bike path. They expressed their personal views that those drawings constituted graffiti, not art while questioning the appropriateness of allowing such politically motivated expression in public places, including rights-of-way.
“At our last meeting, Barbara Bry’s office reported that the legal department had determined that the City would cease erasing BLM chalk art in the public right-of-way on the Fay Avenue Bike path because it was protected by the First Amendment,” said LJPB board president Ann Dynes. “I subsequently received complaints from members of the public contending two of our board members had taken racist positions and calling for their removal. I shared their complaints with those board members and attempted to respond to these complaints. But my explanation was unsatisfactory to those folks (complainants).”
Edwards, director of athletics at UC San Diego since 2000, expressed his views about BLM and its significance to the LJPB board. He noted that a surprising number of things including traffic lights, blood banks, ironing boards, and automatic elevator doors, among others, had all been invented by Black men and women.
Edwards talked about why he became active in speaking out about BLM.
“Unfortunately, it was the murder of George Floyd,” said Edwards. “As a Black man, when I watched him being murdered … that was the time I said, ‘OK. This is it. I’m no longer going to be silent when it comes to racism in our society.’”
Edwards said he was told early on, “I had to be twice as good to get the same opportunities as others, and that the best I could do in a career would be a mechanic.”
Edwards listed several categories in which, he claimed, Black people and other people of color are not being treated equitably.
“Did you know that Black people are two to three times more likely to get pulled over or stopped by police … that a white person is two times as likely as a Black person with the same qualifications to get a job interview … that Black people in hospitals are more likely to not be given more pain medication because of the belief they have a higher (pain) tolerance … or that Black children are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school for the same challenging behavior as white children?”
Concluded Edwards: “I encourage all of you to use your influence to combat racism in our society. Our sphere of influence – friends, family, organizations you belong to, the workplace – is greater than you think. Speak up and educate when it comes to racism. I encourage all of you to examine your own biases and consider where they come from. I’m confident, if we all do our part to fight racism and social injustice in our society, that we will end up in a better place.”