If the internet is good for one thing, it's calling out those who don't give credit.
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” but what should be tagged on to that saying is, “Credit must be given to where credit’s due”. Artist and urban planner, Chris Devins learned this lesson the hard way after erecting a mural of former First Lady Michelle Obama in Chicago.
The artwork was created after Devins garnered the funds from a GoFundMe in which he asked donors to “celebrate Mrs. Obama’s life and accomplishments during the last eight years as first lady of the United States.” The campaign raised over $11,000 and the mural went up across the street from where Obama attended elementary school.
Problem was, the mural design came from a graphic design created by artist, Gelila Mesfin who was never acknowledged or compensated for the use of the image.
“How can you just steal someone’s artwork,” Mesfin said on Instagram captioning an article covering Devins’ project. “This man seriously created a GoFundMe page, raised money and did this… it’s one thing to share or even profit from someone’s work but to claim it as yours is just wrong!”
Adding, “I wouldn’t mind if he had given me credit or said he took the design from another artist but saying you designed it is just wrong! The man is a teacher for God’s sake and said he was doing this to create positivity for his students and community… but he didn’t think that stealing a young girl’s artwork and making a profit out of it does more damage than good.”
Quickly, the internet responded and Devins acknowledged Mesfin’s statement.
As published on DNAinfo Chicago, he apologized, said the mistake was “sloppy” and clarified how he obtained the photo— Pinterest. He also posted a message to Twitter— although (no shade) he spelled Mesfin’s first name incorrect.
“For me, this is a time of learning and self-reflection, not justification,” he says. “Though I did not receive any funds based on Ms. Mesfin’s work, I was granted money based on a socially responsible message about Black women.”
On Sunday Mesfin said on Instagram that her and Devins were “resolving the issue in an applicable and professional manner,” which hopefully means a check will be run her way ASAP.
Watch our interview artist, Gelila Mesfin, above.
[SOUND] [MUSIC] Pauley Audre Lorde once wrote, caring from myself is not self indulgence, it's self preservation and that is an act of political warfare. A self identified, black, ****, warrior poet. Lorde saw the choice of the most marginalize groups to self love as a revolutionary act [MUSIC] She Wins Leadership Institute is a program I designed myself at college for girls in my hometown of north New Jersey, who lost a parent or sibling to homicide like I did. My father was killed leaving his store when I was seven. I wanted to make a program that served girls who shared a story similar to my own and that would serve a direct need in our city. I wanted to give them something that I wish I had at their age. What's the point, or how do you start to win? And everyone, if you raise Just keep it up, I'm gonna try to come to everybody. [INAUDIBLE] I wonder if [INAUDIBLE] think about the bull and not the [INAUDIBLE] Keep your eyes on the prize. Think about what our goal is, stay focused, good. A winner is a person who works hard. Work hard. Anyone else. I'm heating goals. They accomplish things. A winner is a person who never fails. They never fails, but we have an exception about that. Could you be a winner if you fail, but then you try again? Yes. Everybody give me some thumbs up if you agree with what we hearing. Okay, good. Now, I want an example From you all. Give me a time in your life. I notice young black girls now more than I ever did. I'm fearful for them as much as I'm hopeful. I see so much in them. How much they have survived or will soon be forced to endure. The world ain't easy for a young black girl. I'm inspired by them, though, for real. I notice their innocence, the light in their eyes, the potential that them simply being alive and smiling means. The hope that they bring to the world for me. In the beginning of the program, for some of the girls, the act of voicing their emotions, opinions or fears was the most frightening thing of all. Well, from- I see it in the way many of the girls looked to the floor when they speak, or sometimes, opting to say nothing at all. They have learned silence and prefer it to the rest of hearing their own voice. I know what that feels like. My life has been a constant grapple with inner thoughts that tell me that I am not enough. Teaching the girls to trust themselves and their voice has been a process. As she wins, we start and end everyday with a winner's circle. We use a high, a low, and a shout out to another girl in the group. Hi guys. [UNKNOWN], you want to start? My high for the week Graduating from 8th grade going off to high school. I had a test today and I passed the bench mark by 13 points. Hey [APPLAUSE]. My high would be finishing my soccer season off with a record of 9 and 3. I have a [INAUDIBLE] By the end of the program, the girls went from complimenting each other on things like new shoes, to complimenting each other on showing other girls kindness and support during that day's group project. Over time, they started to find the freedom to feel vulnerable And still feel safe. But most of all, they started to believe they were enough. On our three day trip to Washington DC for the Girl Up Leadership Summit, the girls really struggled to engage or even feel confident. It was their first time being in a space Where they felt that everyone else had the privilege of being rich, suburban and white. They questioned everything, their hair, their skin, the way they spoke. I pulled all the girls to my room, and held a wonder circle about the fear and anxiety they were feeling. i reminded them that they were just as talented and bright as any other girl at the conference. For the next two days of the conference, I saw them return to the girls that I knew. [MUSIC] This is a community like a sisterhood, and I feel like if I'm down or if I need just a pick-me-up I can go to any one of y'all. It's just having More like, quote, unquote sisters which I will be able to just lean on if I need anything. When I first came here, I don't even know anybody at all. When you just sit down and you talk to people, you get to know a lot about them. And we create like sorta sisterhood between all of you. I think used to talk about me in school cuz I didn't really say anything or cuz I just sat out or sit by myself and now I learn how to use my voice to express how I feel. [UNKNOWN] what's right Say what I wanted to say. [UNKNOWN] was worth it, I feel like my life was over, I doubted myself, I step back a lot and by joining she [UNKNOWN] it help me step back up and realize that I have to be motivated and everything that I do, I have to do it my [UNKNOWN] When I first came, she [UNKNOWN] I was a shy mean person But now as everybody to say I'm a nice person and I've really grown a lot and have realized that I can't let my anger get to the best in me and except the fact that my niece has been murdered and just continue with my life. [INAUDIBLE] [MUSIC] The act of self love isn't easy. It takes time. It takes effort. But the more you dedicate time to loving yourself And surrounding yourself by people who are encouraging you to do the same, there is no such thing as a barrier. [MUSIC] Every time I'm around them, I see them, I'm inspired to be better, to do better, to do more And so she went to change my life, because all of my girls are winners, and they just inspire me everyday. [MUSIC] For my girls, self love means believing in yourself, even when you feel alone in the world, and doubt creeps into your thoughts. I think of what I know now that I wish I knew years ago. I plan to tell them everything. Black girl magic means to me radical self love. [MUSIC]