Firefighter Sues Over Mural That Depicted Her as White

Latosha Clemons was Boynton Beach's first Black female firefighter
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2021 12:37 PM CDT

A trailblazing Black firefighter in Boynton Beach, Florida, is taking the city to court over a mural that depicted her as white. Latosha Clemons, who became the city's first female Black firefighter in 1996 and retired as deputy chief last year, has filed a lawsuit seeking damages of more than $30,000, alleging that "the actions of the city were done intentionally and knowingly to defame and injure Clemons," CNN reports. The local history mural unveiled at a new fire station in June last year also depicted former fire chief Glenn Joseph, who is Black, with a white face. The mural was removed the day after it was unveiled. At the time, Clemons, who grew up in Boynton Beach, said she was hurt, disappointed, and outraged.

"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," the lawsuit states. The suit alleges that fire chief Matthew Petty pressured public arts manager Debby Coles-Dobay to depict the Black firefighters as white, the Palm Beach Post reports. The city fired Coles-Dobay and Petty resigned after he was demoted, reports the Guardian. Coles-Dobay said she had been "pressured" to make the change. The city says Clemons' lawsuit will be addressed in a mediation session next month. (Read more Florida stories.)

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