In a somber hour-long ceremony, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus unveiled The Texas African American History Memorial at the Capitol on Saturday, Nov. 19. Approximately 500 people attended the church-service style event, complete with glossy programs, the Caucus’ special guests seated in front, and the public gathered on the lawn between the grounds and Congress Avenue.
A Boy Scout led the Pledge of Allegiance, and an ensemble sang the National Anthem, followed by the Black American National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. The live bands and spoken word for which Austin and Texas are best known were notably absent.
Throughout a ceremony wall-to-wall with political speeches by Texas politicians including State Rep. Helen Giddings and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a tethered gray parachute billowed in the wind, concealing the masterwork by Denver sculptor Ed Dwight. Though he didn’t give a speech, Dwight was on-stage and received a standing ovation.
The 10 a.m.-ceremony came to a close with a group un-tethering the parachute. Something hitched, and one of the monument’s installers, who worked on the installation during the past months, climbed atop and – standing amid the two bronzed slaves thrusting forward the Emancipation Proclamation – cut the final cord, amid chants of his name, “Frank, Frank, Frank,” chanting that gave way to cheers with the first full glimpse of Texas history.
Austin restaurant Poke-e-Joe’s catered enough chicken and sausage barbecue for a thousand on the lawn following the unveiling, as about 15 self-styled neo-Nazis with a White Lives Matter sign – and some reportedly openly carrying assault rifles – posted-up on the corner of 11th Street and Congress.
All photos from DHills Photography.
Rowdy, self-styled anti-fascist demonstrators, many with bandannas covering their faces from the nose down, quickly and severely out-numbered the neo-Nazis, chanting them down. Mounted police, a riot squad, and paddy wagons surrounded the spectacle that didn’t dampen the luncheon on the lawn, where Texans flitted between snapping photos in front of the new sculpture and eating and chatting in patches of sunlight on the cool November day.
After a controversy in which Dwight confirmed reports that Texas hadn’t completed payment according to the terms of his contract for the five years he spent working on the sculpture, a source close to the sculptor confirmed that he left the event satisfied and with a check for the balance in his coat pocket.