BOYNTON BEACH (CBSMiami) – The Boynton Beach Fire Department’s first black deputy chief is demanding answers after her face was whited out of a mural.
“As the only black woman on the wall, on the mural, just the pride to have little young girls, young black girls specifically, to walk by that mural in that community, to see someone that looks like them, give them hopes and dreams that they can get on that mural too,” said former Deputy Chief Latosha Clemons.
When the mural debuted on June 2, Clemons’ face was whited out. In a second panel, Clemons and former Chief Glenn Joseph, who is also black, were replaced with white coworkers.
“When I saw it again I was shocked. I had questions like, ‘Who did that? Why did they do it?’” she recalled.
Clemons and her attorney, Nicole Hunt Jackson, want answers.
“We want to find out from beginning to end how we got to this point. Why did they make these changes? I find it ironic that they would remove these two black faces,” said Hunt Jackson.
Boynton Beach Mayor Steven B. Grant told CBS4 that Chief Matt Petty called for their removal because Clemons and Joseph left the department.
“From the information I have is that the fire chief asked for the removal of former Chief Glenn Joseph and Deputy Chief Latosha Clemons from the mural because they’re no longer with the fire department,” explained Grant.
However, the mayor told CBS4 that others on the mural have retired but were left on it.
“I know that some may have retired and been on better standing,” he said. “Deputy Chief Clemons left in the middle of her drop, that was her decision… after former Fire Chief Joseph left, we were without a fire chief. And with Chief Petty and Deputy Chief Clemons being the two people there, we were really left without a lot of leadership in the fire department.”
City Manager Lori LaVerriere is wrapping up her investigation. She said Public Arts Director Debby Coles-Dobay was terminated and Chief Petty was removed.
“I want to apologize, this should have never happened,” she said.
Initially, the city said it wanted to have a new mural back up on June 15. However, that has not happened yet.