If you head down to Thomas Paine Plaza right now, you’ll find a massive Afro pick sculpture embedded in the ground mere feet away from the imposing statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo.
Called All Power to All People, the pick stands at 8 feet tall and weighs nearly 800 pounds. It was cast in aluminum and spray-painted with high-gloss black paint. The teeth are stainless steel, and the grip at the top takes the shape of a giant black fist raised in the air—a reference to the 1970s Black Power Movement.
The work was created by New York artist Hank Willis Thomas, who says in a statement that he chose to build a pick because the object “exists today as many things to different people: it is worn as adornment, a political emblem, and signature of collective identity. The Afro pick continues to develop itself as a testament to innovation.”
Its placement next to the Frank Rizzo statue is no mistake, either. There have been repeated calls for the city to remove the monument to the former mayor because of his controversial history with Philadelphia’s African American community. Just last month—in the midst of the national debate about inappropriate monuments—vandals spray painted the words “Black Power” across it.
That’s been cleaned up now, but this pick will stick around for a while. It exists as part of Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Monument Lab initiative, which tasks 20 national and local artists to create monuments that reflect every Philadelphian and the issues facing our city. These temporary shrines will be displayed in 10 public parks and neighborhood centers between September 16 and November 19.
Check out our guide to Monument Lab to discover five other cool projects worth seeking out in parks around Philadelphia.Share the story