BYU student petitions Provo to re-erect memorial to Black lives

The Say Their Names memorial featured photos of Black people who lost their lives to police brutality. (Amanda Jane Jones)

BYU computer science major Rebecca Ashcraft created a petition Aug. 18 to reinstate a Say Their Names memorial which was recently removed from Kiwanis Park in Provo.

The memorial, organized by Utah author Amanda Jane Jones, featured pictures of Black people killed by police officers. It was first erected Aug. 12 and removed by the city Aug. 17.

Jones did not immediately respond to the Universe’s request for comment, but she shared in an Instagram post that the city removed the memorial because she hadn’t obtained a permit to put it up.

“They’d like us to find a private fence to install it on,” she wrote in the post, adding that she feels the memorial “most certainly needs a home in Provo.”

Ashcraft said that although she doesn’t believe the city’s decision to remove the memorial was racially or politically motivated, some people in Provo might still perceive the removal as an indication that Black lives aren’t valued here.

“The optics are terrible,” she said. “It’s as if I set up a memorial on the side of the road for someone who died in a car accident, and the city took it away with no explanation. The memorial itself doesn’t have any words or any message or any political statement, but it does encourage drivers to stop and think, to watch your speed, to be more attentive, and taking it away sends a wrong kind of a wrong message.”

Similarly, Ashcraft said the message of the Say Their Names memorial was not political, but moral. Its purpose is to encourage dialogue in the Provo community, which Ashcraft described as not being overtly racist, hateful or unwelcoming — merely a little ignorant of the seriousness of race issues.

“One of the problems that Provo, and people in general, face is a bit of a trivialization of the issue of racism. Like, ‘It’s a problem, but it’s not really a problem here,’ or, ‘It’s a problem, but most people don’t face it,'” she said. When seeing the faces and names of people whose lives have been lost to societal racism, however, “I think that that really encourages a perspective that a lot of other dialogues can’t really reach.”

Ashcraft said she intends to send a printed copy of the petition to Provo City Council once it attains 1,000 signatures. As of Aug. 21, it had received 573.

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