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Rumors of War: "Not Just A Story About Race Or Gender"

Artist Kehinde Wiley watching the unveiling of his statue at the VMFA
Artist Kehinde Wiley watches the unveiling of his Statue "Rumors of War," in front of the VMFA. The unveiling hit a few snags, literally, stopping the reveal for about an hour. (Photo Alyssa Johnson/VPM)

Seventy-two year old retired teacher Zenoria Abdus-Salaam came to see the three-story bronze sculpture. It depicts a young African American with his dreadlocks pulled up to high ponytail, riding a horse. It's similar to the statue of Confederate General J.E.B Stuart on nearby Monument Avenue. Salaam tried to avoid that street whenever possible.

“Even as a little one, I knew what the history of my city was.” 

Salaam said that she wishes her grandfather, were alive to see the historic statue take its place next door to the Daughters of the Confederacy museum--that's because her grandfather worked there as a security guard.

"I used to ask him, 'Pop-Pop, why are you the security guard over there? You know who they are?' And he was like, 'we have to eat and this is how I take care of my family.'"

Salaam said that having the statue on the recently named Arthur Ashe Boulevard is so important to younger generation that can now see something of themselves in such a dignified place. She adds that if she were still teaching today, Wiley's statue would be the first stop on a field trip with her elementary students. 

Addressing the crowd, artist Kehinde Wiley said he wants the statue to be about a society that can include all of us. 

“I think that what this thing represents is not just a story about race or gender or a story about openness, it’s a story about America 2.0.” 

“Rumors of War” is now on permanent display at the VMFA. 


Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.