Defaced Cecil B. Moore mural: ‘Just like new’

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, center, and members of the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters celebrate the restoration of Moore’s defaced mural on Thursday. (Philadelphia Tribune photo)

By John N. Mitchell

PHILADELPHIA — Just like new.

That was the consensus of members of the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters as they milled about below the restored North Philadelphia mural that honors Moore less than a week after it was defaced with racist graffiti.

“It’s great to see that the mural has been restored,” said state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democrat who represents the 181st House District, Thursday morning. “We’re grateful to the Mural Arts Program for restoring this beautiful mural. But let’s make no mistake about it. This was an act of racism — a gut punch. This is the kind of racism that Cecil B. Moore dedicated his life to fighting.”

Moore, who died in 1979 at the age of 63, was a lawyer who served as the president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, and famously led protests that led to the integration of Girard College in 1968. He relentlessly picketed trade unions, forcing them to admit Blacks. In 1976, he was elected to City Council. He died before the end of his term.

The mural that features Moore is painted on a building where the civil rights icon once lived, at the intersection of Jefferson and Bouvier streets.

Residents on Sunday morning found that someone had painted a racial epithet with an arrow pointed to Moore on the mural.

The police have not made an arrest in connection with the incident.

Corin Wilson, a project manager with Mural Arts Philadelphia, said her organization jumped to restore the mural as quickly as possible and finished less than 24 hours after the incident.

“Remember, we are talking about children walking through the neighborhood and you don’t want them to have to see this,” Wilson said. “He meant so much to the neighborhood and we just wanted to restore it in the best way possible.”

Vivienne Crawford, an attorney and a member of the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters, knew Moore as a little girl. He was good friends with her father, who owned the Crawford Hotel formerly at the corner of 17th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, and inspired her to pursue a legal career.

“I owe my career to him,” Crawford said. “It hurt thinking some one one do this. But it look great now, really great.”

Crawford said that the defacing of the mural was in part due to the “racist rhetoric” that comes from President Donald Trump.

“To me, it is just a distillation of what has happened in this country since the resident at 1600 (the White House) took up residency there,” she said. “Not that it wasn’t out there before. But people feel free and like they have license to be more free to be bigoted. I don’t think that it would have ever happened before.”

John N. Mitchell is a reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.