Latosha Clemons, a Black firefighter, was recently whitewashed on a mural that Boynton Beach commissioned and filed a lawsuit.
City commissioners and attorneys are expected to meet this week to discuss the lawsuit filed by Boynton Beach’s first Black female firefighter, reported the Palm Beach Post.
The subject of the lawsuit is a 2019 mural that was painted to honor the fire department.
A photo of Clemons and two white firefighters was submitted as the template for the mural. However, once the painting was complete, Clemons was depicted as a white woman.
Making matters even worse, Glenn Joseph, the city’s Black former fire chief, was also whitewashed and presented as a white man.
In response, the mural was removed the day after its unveiling in June 2020. The city also fired the public arts manager Debby Coles-Dobay and removed Matthew Petty as fire chief. Both of them are white.
According to the lawsuit, Clemons’s whitewashed image disrespected her accomplishments and Boynton Beach’s large Black population. The filing also claims that Petty told Coles-Dobay to change that template by which the mural would be painted.
“I’m hurt. I’m disappointed. I’m outraged,” Clemons said in June 2020. “It’s been my heart and soul and my lifeblood to serve in the community where I grew up … this is beyond disrespect, and I basically want to know why it happened.”
The city attorneys have claimed that employees acted outside of the scope of their power and did so without the consent or knowledge of the city.
Clemons joined the Boynton Beach Fire Department in 1996. She worked her way up to deputy fire chief and held that position for three years until she retired in 2020.
The case is currently going through mediation, although Clemons’ attorney hopes for a jury trial. The next date for the mediation is scheduled for Nov. 30.