Black Lives Matter mural should be removed, Knox County school board member says

Evetty Satterfield, Knox County Board of Education, District 1

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Evetty Satterfield, the Knox County Board of Education representative for Austin-East Magnet High School, has asked the city of Knoxville to remove the Black Lives Matter mural painted in front of the school by community activists without city approval.

In an open letter posted on Facebook, Satterfield asked the city of Knoxville to remove the Black Lives Matter mural on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in front of Austin-East High School before the 2020-2021 school year begins. The District 1 representative expressed concern about future demonstrations at the site and the mural being a painful reminder of racial inequality to students.

“The Black Lives Matter mural on Martin Luther King Jr Ave was not an inclusive community event, but could have been if the proper processes had been followed. The property most effected, Austin-East Magnet High School, was left out of the planning, organizing and implementation. Austin-East will have to carry the burden of what could potentially transpire in the future. Be it counter-protest, defamation, large gatherings of people celebrating or simple upkeep for years to come. Austin-East, by default, now becomes responsible. And frankly, they should not be forced to carry that weight.

The amount of attention, confusion, and divisiveness that has transpired brings grave concern about what will happen when our scholars return to their beloved school. While Black Lives Matter is liberating for some, it is just as triggering for others. Our scholars have endured the unimaginable since they left our care in March of 2020. By simply coming to school, our scholars will be reminded of the strife happening in our nation. Daily reminders of such can and will cause harm to their psyche, be it consciously or subconsciously. Schools are a safe haven for kids, and we do everything in our power to counteract the unwavering forces our scholars have to endure on a daily basis. Adverse Childhood Experiences have a tremendous effect on our academic growth, and we are running the risk of imposing even more trauma to our most vulnerable population – children.”

Evetty Satterfield, Knox County Board of Education, District 1

The city of Knoxville denied community organizers a permit to paint the mural on Fourth of July weekend, citing that the request came on too short of a notice and did not meet minimum requirements for a permit.

The release specifically mentioned the requirement of community support. For approval, organizers needed signatures from “each adjacent property owners and at least 80% of the residents on the project street frontage(s) within two city blocks of the proposed project,” something organizers said they secured.

The city stated in a release that it has received petitions signed by residents both for and against the project and that many people have reached out saying they want to see a Black Lives Matter painting, but on another city street.

Mayor Indya Kincannon said, “Although we tried our best, the minimum requirements have not yet been met and we were not able to issue a permit.”

The mayor also said that she supported Black Lives Matter and public art.

“I hope we can work together to make this project happen, and when we do, I’ll gladly bring a paint brush and join the effort.”

Indya Kincannon, mayor, City of Knoxville

Local activist Denzel Grant said he was told by several city officials the project was a go prior to the announcement that the permit was denied.

Read the full statement from School Board Representative Satterfield here:

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