Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo is scheduled to speak at the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce event that evening, and local activists have said they plan to picket, in a push for the county to remove the carousel image, which features a crude drawing of African-American children on one of the top panels that could be considered racist.
Howard Eagle, a member of the Take it Down Planning Committee, has participated in several protests regarding the image since July, which was prior to and following former county executive Maggie Brooks’ decision not to have the image removed, after the city determined it was the county that had the authority to take it down.
Instead of removing the image, Brooks decided to create a series of informational panels to explain the history of the 111-year-old carousel picture, which county officials said should be ready by spring.
“In August of 2015, myself, Minister Franklin Florence Sr., Minister Clifford Florence, and a few others, met with the mayor, the county executive, the president of city council Loretta Scott, some people from the Landmark Society, and some people from the parks department,” Eagle stated. “That meeting was requested by the mayor. And, I don’t say this to attack her, but, at the meeting, the county executive, she was so ignorant about this issue that she told us she didn’t understand what the uproar was about. So, we gave her a history lesson on the spot. It was our understanding that she was in agreement with the mayor. Myself, and Minister Clifford Florence Sr., met again with the mayor, and the president of city council, and the mayor told us that the image was coming down; that it was just a matter of a couple of weeks. She said she would get back to us in a couple of weeks. That was in September. We contacted her again, and she said she was still working with the county executive, she just needed more time. Finally, she contacted us, and said she had discovered Maggie Brooks had the ultimate authority to take it down, but that she didn’t think Brooks would have time to take it down before the end of her administration. And, she didn’t. So, apparently, Brooks has dumped this in the lap of Cheryl Dinolfo. We sent Dinolfo a note requesting to meet with her about this before she was sworn in, in December. We never heard back from her. So, she will be at the hotel, at an event this evening, and we will be there. This is not an attack on the new county executive, because she was not at the table when all this was taking place. But, we want to meet with her, and send her a clear message that this image has to come down.”
Eagle said the group understood the county’s desire to explain the historical significance of the image, but simply placing informational panels at the site would not be not enough.
“The era of Jim Crow dates back to the 1800s, and a part of that was the minstrel shows, where white entertainers dressed in black face,” he stated. “You know, they looked very much like the image on the carousel. This was a system of an ongoing effort to dehumanize African-American people. So, this is what we explained to the former county executive, and thought she understood. This whole guise of putting plaques there to explain it, that’s just not sufficient.”
Eagle said the group would prefer to have the image placed in a museum, where those who are knowledgeable about the subject could explain the image’s history. However, until that time, he said the group will continue to protest.
“We believe, as we’ve been saying since July, when we first found out it was there, it needs to be in some sort of museum setting,” Eagle stated. “The protest is to get the attention of Ms. Dinolfo. We assume the city, and county, want a peaceful, and tranquil environment, and, so do we. Whether or not that occurs is going to be their call. If this does not bring Dinolfo to resolve this, then we will engage in more actions to resolve this. And, we don’t plan to watch the carousel open for another season with the pickaninny art still up there. It needs to come down.”