In honor of Juneteenth, local sculptor Dana King — whom Bay Area residents may recognize from her tenure as a new anchor at KPIX, which ended in 2012 — is unveiling a significant new sculpture installation at the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park, titled "Monumental Reckoning."
SFist first learned about the piece last month, and it features 350 black rubber figures encircling the plinth that used to be home to a statue of Francis Scott Key. That statue was pulled down by protesters last year — Key, who wrote the "The Star-Spangled Banner," was a slave owner and anti-abolitionist, so... — and now King's piece will live there in recognition of "the original sin of slavery," as she says, for the next two years.
The faceless figures represent the 350 kidnapped Africans who sailed across the Atlantic in 1619 aboard the Spanish slave ship San Juan Bautista, the first slaves brought to the U.S.
Below, King gives a glimpse of the piece as of Friday morning, in an Instagram video. At 5 p.m. Friday, there will be a formal unveiling ceremony, co-hosted by Illuminate SF.
"The ancestors are Black, the plinth is white," King tells ABC 7. "The ancestors are going to stand there until their work is done."
Ralph Remington, director of cultural affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission, which sponsored the piece, tells ABC 7 that the racial reckoning happening around the country is long overdue.
"It sends a message that it's a new day," Remington says. "People get to see for the first time maybe what it feels like when people who have been discriminated against, who have been persecuted and demonized and vilified get to pass judgment ourselves."
King says that the 350 figures have been overflowing out of her Oakland studio, and her team of all-female assistants have been working for months on completing the small army of figures — made with 35,000 feet of black rubber tubing.
King typically works in bronze, and creates sculptures that celebrate Black bodies — a decade ago SFist noted her penchant for penis sculptures, specifically, but she was still in art school at the time. In 2018, she completed several life-size bronze figures for the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, representing the women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Tonight's event will feature opening remarks by Mayor London Breed, a processional and choir singing James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice," a "libation ceremony" to thank and bless our ancestors, African drummers, and a musical performance by Rebel Soul recording artist and member of the SF Jazz Collective, Martin Luther McCoy.