Slowly, Confederate monuments across the country are coming down, whether through political decree or ropes and strong arms. Often, the pedestals upon which the statues stood remain in place, but empty—enduring symbols of a stain on history.
To celebrate the beginning of Black History Month, racial justice organization Color Of Change has created a way to fill those empty plinths with the images of people who actually deserve to be recognized. “The Pedestal Project” uses augmented reality to put statues of civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and Freedom March NYC co-founder Chelsea Miller into the lives of Instagram users.
Made by BBDO New York, the filter is accessible through the Color of Change Instagram account. It projects a 3D CGI image of each activist, rendered from 2D sketches drawn by Black sculpture artist Spencer Evans, who imagined how each might look if cast in bronze for their own monument—Lewis gestures toward the future, Garza unfurls a BLM banner, and Garza clutches a bullhorn.
“In their time, white nationalist officials erected statues of Confederate leaders for a reason—to send a message about who should dominate this country, and to put Black people in our place,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, in a statement. “In our time, Confederate statues continue to encourage white nationalists who are hell bent on resisting progress. It’s not enough to remove them; we must replace them with symbols of a just vision of America. But most importantly, every statue we change must go hand in hand with a statute we change. We cannot allow symbols like monuments to be a consolation prize—they must accompany real efforts to change laws and outcomes for real people, which is why we’re focusing on three of the many heroes fighting for concrete, anti-racist policy changes that will transform our country for the better.”
While the filter works anywhere, enterprising users can search for empty pedestals that used to support Confederate monuments at ThePedestalProject.com and use the app in those locations. Currently, all are located on the East Coast, mostly in the Northeast. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies more than 1,700 Confederate monuments still standing across the country.
"Symbols and their substance matter,” said Garza in a statement. “They are a representation of that which we vow to never forget—they are regular reminders of what we value, who we strive to be, as individuals, as communities, as a nation, as a people. There are symbols of racial terror all over our country—Confederate monuments, crosses burning on lawns of civil rights workers, statues to killers and war criminals. But what if there were monuments to our ongoing struggle for racial justice, for dignity, for democracy—not confined inside of memorials and museums, but everywhere that people gather?”
Users can also sign a change.org petition calling for the removal of all Confederate monuments.
“The Civil Rights Movement never ended; it has just taken new forms,” said Miller in a statement. “It is on every generation to build on the work of those who came before us and unapologetically stand on the shoulders of our ancestors.”