The international contemporary artist known as Dread Scott will have his provocative anti-lynching and anti-police brutality artwork displayed in Baltimore for 60 days, starting Tuesday.
The 7-foot-tall black banner, which reads “A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday” in bold white letters, will be displayed in Old Goucher at the intersection of North Avenue and St. Paul Street as part of an initiative to bring more meaningful art to the neighborhood’s public spaces.
Born Scott Tyler, the 53-year-old artist said the banner draws inspiration from the “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday*” flag that was flown by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at its New York headquarters from the 1920s through 1938.
The original flag, displayed to report when a racist lynching occurred in the country, was about more than just mourning, Scott said. It was a strategy to draw more attention to violence against black people in America.
“Black people knew that we could be lynched for anything,” Scott said, adding that today, the black community feels the same threat from police. “It’s a continuum that’s changed form,” he said.
The native Chicagoan, who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., said he was inspired to create a new rendition of the NAACP’s flag after the 2015 death of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by police while fleeing a traffic stop. It was one outrage too many after the police shooting deaths of Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, he said.
The response to Scott’s banner, which has been exhibited at 20 sites around the world — including Milan, Italy; Cape Town, South Africa; and New York — has been “tremendously positive” and indicative of what many people have been thinking, he said.
“People know that the police are killing us, and [there is] this connection to lynch mob terrorists,” Scott said.
Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police President Lt. Gene Ryan said he respects Scott’s right to express himself, but said “to paint every single police officer with a broad brush is wrong” and called police-involved shootings isolated incidents. Not every officer, he said, is out to take the law into their own hands.
“I know they're referring to lynching as the modern-day shootings so to speak, but the majority …of police officers, Baltimore City included, coast to coast, they're professional,” Ryan said. “They're out there to help people. That's what they got hired for, because you certainly don't get into this job for the money.”
Kelly Cross, head of the ARTSite Old Goucher program, brought Scott’s work to Baltimore in collaboration with Joseph del Pesco, curator and international director of arts organization Kadist.
“It’s not just about bringing in works that are pretty,” Cross said. “It’s bringing in works that have something to say to the people of Baltimore right now.”
Baltimore is more than fitting for the banner, Cross and Scott said. The city is home to the current NAACP headquarters and was propelled into the national rhetoric around police brutality following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.
“[The city] a microcosm of what’s happening in the greater U.S.,” Cross said.
Scott said this makes him even more honored that his work is being displayed in Baltimore.
“I’m really touched,” he said.
If you go
Dread Scott’s “A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday” banner will be installed outside 100 E. North Ave. at 2 p.m. Tuesday, followed by a small ceremony with Scott, artists and community members at around 6 p.m. For more information, visit kadist.org.
A previous version of this article misstated the text of the NAACP's original flag. The flag read "A Man Was Lynched Yesterday." The Sun regrets the error.