The Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters, a local group of activists who protested alongside Moore in the 1960s, addressed a crowd of approximately a dozen of their supporters on Bouvier Street near Jefferson Thursday to condemn the painting of a racial slur on Moore’s mural on Saturday.
The current tenants of the building, on which the mural is painted, reported the slur to police Saturday, The Temple News reported. Mural Arts Philadelphia began removing the slur on Saturday night and restored the mural by Tuesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Moore, the former president of Philadelphia’s chapter of the NAACP, protested for seven months to integrate Girard College, according to Temple Libraries. The Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters were also active in the picket lines at Girard College, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Moore earned a law degree from the Beasley School of Law in 1953 and was elected president of the Philadelphia NAACP in 1962, according to Temple University Libraries. He also served as president of the North Philadelphia NAACP after the organization split into three branches, according to Temple University Libraries.
The Freedom Fighters worked with Mayor Wilson Goode Sr. and the Philadelphia City Council to change the name of Columbia Avenue to Cecil B. Moore Avenue in 1990 and the SEPTA Broad Street Line station at Cecil B. Moore and Broad to Cecil B. Moore Station in 1995, according to the group’s website.
The Freedom Fighters would do anything for Moore, said Karen Asper-Jordan, the president of the group.
“He was a man that we loved,” Asper-Jordan said. “There was a saying that we would follow Cecil to hell. It didn’t mean we were going to stay, but we were going to follow him to hell.”
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, whose district encompasses Main Campus, attended the event and said it was a “gut punch” to see the racial slur written on the mural.
“As a black elected official, I think every black elected official stands on Moore’s shoulders, because of his activism and his commitment to progress,” Kenyatta said.
Kenyatta said that the vandalism should not distract people from the story of who Cecil B. Moore was and the people who stood with him.
“What was done to this mural was vile,” Kenyatta said. “It was disgusting and it was racist. But I think it’s important that we stand here today to make sure that the story that’s told isn’t just about racist, wrongheaded, inappropriate language.”
Vivienne Crawford, a member of the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters who also worked with Moore as a member of the NAACP Youth Council, said she hopes the police find the vandal.
“Cecil was like a surrogate father to all of us,” Crawford said. “So, to see this memorial that has been here all this time be defaced is problematic for us.”
Bernyce C. Mills-DeVaughn, another member of the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fights, said that seeing the vandalism on the mural “was like a stab in the heart.”
“Cecil was our hero,” Mills-DeVaughn said. “We’re glad that the city and the Mural Arts program promptly came out and they fixed this. He’s an icon here in the city. There’s so many people who aren’t aware of the fact that had it not been for his due diligence, they wouldn’t have the opportunities that they had.”