A 28-foot touring sculpture combining the Afro pick and the Black Power salute as two potent symbols of Black identity and social justice has landed in the District to coincide with the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Hank Willis Thomas, a New York-based visual artist behind the project in partnership with nonprofit Kindred Arts, said the all-steel art installation is a celebration of culture, especially in today’s political climate.
“We were looking to celebrate Black beauty and Black power,” Thomas said. “This sculpture symbolizes D.C., once known as Chocolate City — and a way to show the monumental contributions of African Americans to this country with its growth and political evolution.”
Perched in front of the Human Rights Campaign headquarters in northwest D.C., the “All Power to All People” statue has been on tour since 2018, stopping most recently in Atlanta.
Thomas said the installation is a symbol of community, strength, perseverance and justice that aims to inspire action and demand social change.
He adds it’s also a way to continue the momentum of the ongoing protests around the country while offering a platform for civic leaders and activists to engage the public.
“We just need reminders in every way. We should celebrate each and every culture in every way because in doing that we all rise,” Thomas said.
Nekisha Durrett is a local mixed-media artist who has collaborated with Thomas on other installations such as “I See Myself in You” in Miami.
The piece, also made of steel is described as a large wall-mounted sculpture of a Black woman with mirror reflective sunglasses looking out across the city at beachgoers in the 1950s.
Durrett said a part of an artist’s work is to inject into narratives what is vital, what is missing and also what has been erased, something she relates to personally.
“As a Black queer woman, there are moments in my life where I feel invisible or unseen and I found that making large scale works is a way for me to take up space in the world,” she said.
Durrett added that public art can also galvanize and inspire people for social change.
“I think that everyone wants to feel seen and represented,” she said. “Another thing that’s so spectacular about this work coming to D.C. is that D.C. is probably the city with the largest amounts of monuments in this country.
“Many of which were actually built by Black people in some cases enslaved or indentured people,” Durrett said. “So to see this sculpture that celebrates Black people on such a large prominent scale and elevating Black people and Black culture is particularly exciting and compelling.”
The “All Power to All People” sculpture will be on display until Aug. 28.