The wall mural of LGBTQ activist and Latinx community icon Gloria Casarez was whitewashed Wednesday, 6abc Action News reported. The tribute to Philadelphia’s first director of LGBT affairs had adorned the former site of the 12th Street Gym in the Gayborhood since 2015. Casarez passed away in 2014 after a battle with breast cancer.
Casarez was an American civil rights leader and LGBT activist in Philadelphia. She served as Philadelphia’s first director of Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) affairs. During her tenure as director, Philadelphia ranked as the number one city nationwide for LGBT equality. Gloria Casarez served as the executive director of Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) from 1999–2008.
The painted white wall has many feeling angered near 12th Street in Center City. “I was really surprised and enraged,” said artist Michelle Angela-Ortiz, who created the mural.
The image of the Gloria Casarez mural was projected Wednesday night on the blank wall with the banner that says, “You can’t erase our history.”
NO MORE MURAL: Outrage in Center City tonight after mural of beloved LGBTQ activist and Latinx community icon, Gloria Casarez was suddenly painted over by a developer set to demolish the building.
— George Solis (@GeorgeSolis) December 24, 2020
“That’s all I’ve known since I moved to the city and I look at it now and it’s just sad,” said resident Hayley Roberts.
Past fall, once it was known that the site had been sold to New York City developer Midwood Investment and Development, many residents wondered about the mural’s fate. Some even protested to ensure the mural would be preserved before the site was torn down.
Planning involving multiple parties including Mural Arts Philadelphia led to the decision of a new tribute that would feature Gloria Casarez and Henry Minton, a leading Black abolitionist who once lived in the same location.
In an initial joint statement, Midwood and Mural Arts announced their partnership to commission the new installation. However, out of nowhere, the mural was painted over Wednesday.
“After this unexpected development, we cannot in good conscience move forward,” said Jane Golden, the executive director of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
Golden said though it was understood the building and mural were going away, how it was done is really a major problem.
“When they go away, they have to go away with sensitivity and respect and we have to have time to mourn and acknowledge it,” she explained.
Angela-Ortiz is standing with others in the community expressing outrage. Ortiz said she still has no plans to work with Midwood in the future. Her priority now is honoring Gloria and Minton and all that they stood for.
“Even though this mural has been whitewashed, her history is not gone,” Ortiz said.