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Chicago Tribune Sunday, August 23, 1992  Section 13  Page 11  Arts

only one who got those types of letters."

Bob Long, a spokesman for FBI's office in Chicago, said recently that he was  not certain whether the FBI monitored the artists' action. A Chicago police spokeswoman denied that police officers harassed the group.

Daniel Frye, assistant professor of art at the University of Missouri in Columbia, notes that "The government understood that art was important. Art was socially powerful."

The artists were members of the former Visual Art Workshop of the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), which was organized in May, 1967. Its goal was to coordinate activities and promote black pride in the arts. 

Donaldson was one of OBAC's founders. Others who helped spearhead the group ranged from political activists to university professors. Artist William Walker said it was his idea to have the group paing a mural.

"I was involved in the arts movement - the black arts movement," says photographer Roy Lewis. Lewis, a former Ebony magazine photographer, had photos displayed on the mural.

"It was exciting," Lewis recalls. "We knew each other. It was a moment to work with your peers. The 'Wall of Respect' was paying tribute to your heroes."

Donaldson said the group painted on a building that was owned by an absentee landlord and never got permission to paint. Residents, including street gang members, supported the group's action, Donaldson says.

"Some negative things happened around the wall," he says.

Teens and gang members would extort money from people wanting to take pictures of the mural, Donaldson says.

"It was like they were saying, 'You come here to exploit our neighborhood, we are going to exploit you like you exploit us,'" Donaldson says.

Donaldson estimated that 25 to 100 people would drive by the mural while artists worked on it during a weekday and 200 to 300 people would visit the site on weekends.

Artist Norman Parish Jr. says he enjoyed having people drive by the mural to examine it while he worked on it.

"I would see it from the street and feel good," says Parish, who worked as a draftsman at a design company when the mural was being painted. Today, he owns Parish Gallery in Washington, D.C.

"I would come there and work on it on weekends and after work," he says. "It was an art activity. It was a group that had meaning - that is why I got involved in it. It was a place you could use your talent. There weren't many avenues for blacks to showcase our work. So this was an activity you could be involved in."

But soon Parish's joy turned to anger after a portion that he had painted was whitewashed by Walker.

"A couple of members of the group said it needed to be more finished," Parish says. "But I thought it was complete."

Parish painted the section of the mural called "the Statesmen." It contained portraits of Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael (now named Kwame Ture), H. Rap Brown (now named Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin), Marcus Garvey and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

"I believe some of the artists believed that I was not black enough in my thought," Parish says.

But Walker, one of the three artists who wanted to have Parish's mural removed from the building, says Parish's section was whitewashed because Malcolm X's image was viewed as "weak." It was painted over a structural recess on the building.

Twenty-five years later, however, Walker says that he now believes the mural was strong in its original form. "It was pure nonsense," Walker says about the whitewashing. "It caused me much heartache. It was something that should have never happened."

Sylvia Abernathy, who created

Se Wall, pg. 22 
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