Dalton Whiting and his roommate were leaving for work on Saturday morning when they noticed a racial slur scribbled on the mural painted on the side of their house. The mural on Bouvier Street near Jefferson honors civil rights activist and lawyer Cecil B. Moore, who once lived at the same property that Whiting now lives in.
Whiting called the city after seeing the slur, he said. A staff member from Mural Arts Philadelphia started cleaning the mural on Saturday night, wrote Cari Feiler Bender, spokesperson for the art program, in an email to The Temple News.
The graffiti appeared on Saturday morning around dawn, 6ABC reported. The slur is still partially visible. Police said an investigation is ongoing with the Central Detectives Division.
As a civil rights leader, Moore was known for his militant style of activism, according to Temple University Libraries. Cecil B. Moore Avenue and a station on the Broad Street Line is named after Moore, who was a former Philadelphia City councilman and former president of Philadelphia’s NAACP chapter. Moore led seven months of demonstrations to integrate Girard College in the 1960s, according to Temple Libraries.
Karen Asper Jordan is the president of the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters, a group of activists who protested with Moore for desegregation in the 1960s and led the initiative to name the subway station after him, according to their website. Asper Jordan, who is in her 70s, immediately went to the mural when she heard about the vandalism on Sunday morning, she said.
“It was one of the worst things I had seen because this man has done so much for so many people, especially the poor, the down trot, people that were disenfranchised,” said Jordan, who was 16 years old when she began demonstrating with Moore. “This man fought for the rights of all Americans.”
“I’m at a loss for words, but the fact that we have to suffer these dishonorable insults to our historical figure, this man fought for the rights of all Americans,” Jordan added.
Whenever Mural Arts learns of graffiti on a mural, the organization dispatches a staff member to clean it within 24 hours, Feiler Bender wrote.
“We condemn defacing of public art, especially with racist slurs of one of Philadelphia’s great leaders,” Feiler Bender further wrote.
Local legislators took to social media to condemn the graffiti.
“Not only is this hateful language unacceptable anywhere, it’s deeply offensive to deface a memorial to a civil rights leader like Cecil Bassett Moore,” wrote City Council President Darrell Clarke, whose district encompasses Main Campus, in a tweet. “We want to send a signal that this kind of hate will not be tolerated in the City of Philadelphia.”
“Cecil B. Moore was a hero of the civil rights movement,” wrote Sen. Bob Casey on Twitter. “The racist who defaced his mural will never silence the power of his example.”
Calvin Jones painted the mural in 2000, Feiler Bender wrote.
“It reminds me of a hate crime and I know there’s a proliferation of hate groups all over the country,” Jordan said. “It was an act of cowardice because the person did it under cover of either night or early in the morning to get away with it.”
The person responsible should learn about the history behind the mural, she added.
“We don’t know who did it and if they catch the person, I think they should pay restitution, and I think they should be required to work with activists and I think they should be required to learn the history of Cecil B. Moore and the history of the fight against racism, discrimination, segregation,” Jordan added.
“That mural had been unscathed for years. Why now? Why deface it now,” Jordan asked.
Claudia Salvato and Jack Danz contributed reporting.