Marblehead’s “pride sidewalk” has been damaged, with two strips of black skid marks, marring the colorful public artwork that the town unveiled less than a month ago to celebrate the local LGBTQ+ community.
“We are investigating to determine who is responsible for what appears to be bike tire marks,” Marblehead Police Chief Dennis King told the Current on Monday. “We have not identified anyone at this point.”
He added, “The defacement of the Pride Pavement painting at the information booth is disappointing, purposeful or not.”
The damage comes a couple weeks after the artwork was painted on four concrete slabs outside the Marblehead information booth and on a triangular island between Pleasant and Essex streets facing Memorial Park.
The Marblehead Cultural Council commissioned and the Marblehead Select Board unanimously approved the artwork in mid-June. King said he would work with the Marblehead Cultural Council to see if the skid marks can be removed.
Named “Four Love & Peace Leaf Clover — Intersex Progress Pride,” Marblehead artist TJ deDe Blij’s design features four hearts assembled in a clover-like pattern, signifying love, peace and hope.
The background, filled with the emblematic colors of the progressive pride flag, includes the six vibrant rainbow hues symbolizing hope: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for peace or serenity and purple for spirit.
The design weaves in light blue, pink and white stripes symbolizing the trans community, and black and brown stripes recognizing people of color. Additionally, the intersex-inclusive progress pride flag is represented through a yellow triangle enclosing a purple circle, illustrating unity and completeness for the intersex community.
“It will send a message of acceptance, tolerance and inclusion,” Blij told the Select Board. “It’s quite straightforward, sticking to symbols that are commonly used.”
Marblehead Cultural Council Chair Jennifer Uhl surveyed the skid marks on Sunday night.
“I’m bummed, but it’s nothing we can’t fix,” she told the Current.
Marblehead author, advocate and Pride Committee member Mimi Lemay added, “Although we don’t know all the details yet, TJ de Blij’s beautiful work of art, the culmination of a long-term effort involving Marblehead Cultural Council members and town officials, stands in stark contrast to this potential act of hate. What appears to be vandalism toward a symbol of unity and inclusion in the face of ongoing discrimination underscores the need for continued education on this very topic.”
Lemay pointed to a “startling rise” of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric leading to hate incidents seen in recent statistics from the FBI and reports from extremist-tracking organizations like the Anti-Defamation League.
“The antidote is twofold: an increase in education and a commitment from our allies to stand up to hate when they see it,” she said. “We in the Marblehead Pride Committee are determined to foster stronger bonds of community, and we call on our neighbors to join us, both at future live events and on our Marblehead Pride social media pages.”
Marblehead Task Force Against Discrimination Chair Helaine Hazlett and Uhl said their groups are discussing how the community could raise funds to keep the pride sidewalk in perpetuity.
“TJ has put a proposal forward to provide stewardship of this public art if anything ever happened to it,” said Uhl. “We would have some funds to always keep it bright and beautiful.”