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Florida City's First Black Female Firefighter Files Lawsuit After Mural Depicts Her As White

Florida City's First Black Female Firefighter Files Lawsuit After Mural Depicts Her As White

Boynton Beach city officials are meeting this week to review a lawsuit filed by the city's first Black female firefighter after her image was whitewashed in a public mural.

Latosha Clemons, who worked for the city for 26 years is suing for $100,000 in damages according to the lawsuit filed in April.

Clemons first reacted to the mural after it was unveiled in June 2020.

Clemons became the first Black deputy fire chief. She approved the original image to be used in 2019.

However, sometime between Clemons approval and when the mural was finished in 2020, the image was adjusted. Instead of her image, the face was adjusted to reflect Clemons as a White firefighter.

The change to the mural was unbelievable.

After the unveiling of the mural, the city's public art manager and fire chief were removed from their positions.

Matthew Petty, the former fire chief, was removed from his position and later resigned. Debby Coles-Dobay, the former public arts manager says she was pressured by Petty and his staff to change Clemons' image.

Clemons is suing the city for defamation, libel and negligence.

The complaint says:

"Being depicted as White was not only a false presentation of Clemons, it was also a depiction which completely disrespected all that the first female Black firefighter for the city had accomplished."
"By allowing the mural to depict Clemons as someone of a completely different race, White, a race the city presumably felt better fit the image it was looking to project."

Mayor Steven B. Grant said the city commission will gather this week at a closed-door meeting to discuss the lawsuit. The city's official position is a denial of the allegations, claiming the employees who are responsible changed the approved design without public leaders' consent.

Grant told The Washington Post:

"We don't understand why this happened."

Commenters online knew exactly why this happened.

An updated version of the mural with a proper representation of Clemons image was unveiled several months after the original, but it did little to quell the damage.

Attorneys for Clemons and the city are expected to meet for a mediation next month according to court documents.

Where this case goes from there remains to be seen.