Blackout Black Friday: Trio of protesters rallies outside Gardens Mall

Scheril Murray Powel, (from left), a Florida International University law school student, Ayanna Asante and Jamilah Gavin hold signs while demonstrating in front of the Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Scheril Murray Powell, (from left), a Florida International University law school student, Ayanna Asante and Jamilah Gavin hold signs while demonstrating in front of the Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Outside The Gardens Mall on Friday in Palm Beach Gardens, a trio of protesters were just a small segment of protests both locally and nationally calling for a boycott of Black Friday.

Promoted over social media as #BlackoutBlackFriday, the movement calls for both blacks and those against racial inequality to stay away from large retailers both on the biggest shopping day of the year and other days throughout the year.

They included Florida International University law student Scheril Murray Powell, who says she began boycotting Black Friday in 2012 and continued after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as a form of economic activism against police shootings involving mostly black young men.

That sense of activism, Powell said, was heightened with last month’s shooting death of 31-year-old Corey Jones, a stranded black motorist gunned down by now-fired Palm Beach Gardens Police officer Norman Raja.

“Even if I was the only one out here, I’d still be here,” Powell said. “I want to be a catalyst for change, and this is how I’m doing it.”

Brad Goldstein, a spokesman from a firm The Gardens Mall hired specifically to address protests in the wake of Jones death, said he was unaware of any other protests aside from the one where Powell stood. He said he didn’t think National Blackout founder and Black Lawyers for Justice president, Dr. Malik Zulu Shabazz, was at the mall.

“Our sympathies go out to the Jones family,” Goldstein said, adding: “The mall had nothing to do with the tragedy.”

At one point during Friday’s demonstration, a white man in a gray BMW slowed down at the intersection, rolled down his window and said, “Don’t forget Corey.”

Powell, who two weeks ago organized a panel discussion and candlelight vigil in honor of Jones in Broward County, told the man that Jones was the reason why they were there.

Ayanna Asante, a local co-chair of the National Blackout, one of the organizations spearheading the calls for the boycott, said members of the group in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and other places of recent shootings involving white police officers have turned out in droves.

Asante and her daughter joined Powell on PGA Boulevard, along with a handful of others who came and went, with plans to conduct other protests elsewhere.

Their hope, organizers say, is to force business leaders and politicians to address racial injustice by forcing them to recognize the impact of blacks as consumers.

According to an ongoing Nielsen study of African American consumerism, whose latest findings were released in September, blacks were expected to spend about $1 trillion nationally this year.

Sculpture artist chosen for public art at new West Palm Beach baseball complex

Blessing Hancock, a sculpture artist based in Tucson, Ariz., has been selected to design and install the public art that will be part of the new spring training baseball stadium in West Palm Beach.

Hancock, owner of Skyrim Studio, will have a budget of $800,000 for three areas of the complex, which will be shared by the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals starting in January 2017.

Blessing Hancock, an Arizona-based sculpture artist, proposed these shadow panels and pitch banners at the new West Palm Beach spring training stadium.
Blessing Hancock, an Arizona-based sculpture artist, proposed these shadow panels and pitch banners at the new West Palm Beach spring training stadium.

A selection committee made up of team representatives and Palm Beach County staff chose Hancock late last month from 43 national artists.

Hancock’s proposal included stainless steel shade and shadow panels at the main entrance. From a distance, the shadow screens will resemble a cluster of palm fronds. As visitors get closer, they will see a grid pattern of tiny baseball players in motion, focusing on sequences of hitting, throwing and catching.

The panels will create artistic shadows reflected onto the concourse.

“These sequential chains of motion are captured in silhouette and reflected onto the surrounding surfaces and visitors to the artwork,’’ Hancock wrote in her presentation.

ARTTHer proposal also calls for colorful panels above the stadium’s main concourse with photographs depicting the grips of different pitches such as a fastball and knuckleball. And on the railings of bridges that will connect the stadium to the practice fields, Hancock is proposing panels depicting baseball trivia and memorabilia.

Blessing Hancock (photo courtesy University of Texas at San Antonio)
Blessing Hancock (photo courtesy University of Texas at San Antonio)

The Astros and Nationals will work with Hancock on the final designs, which might not be the same designs that she included in her proposal.

Hancock will start designing the project on Aug. 15. The installation is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2016.

The $135 million stadium, which is being financed in part by $113 million in revenue from a tax on hotels and motels, will be built on 160 acres south of 45th Street between Military Trail and Haverhill Road.

The teams hope to break ground by mid-October.