Inside Color of Change’s Pedestal Project with Chelsea Miller
The new augmented reality experience will let users replace Confederate statues with modern racial justice leaders.
On Monday Feb. 1, Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, launched an innovative project that utilizes advanced technology to delve into an imaginable future of racial equity that acknowledges the pioneers of the movement.
The Pedestal Project is an augmented reality experience on Instagram that lets users place statues of modern racial justice leaders atop of empty pedestals where confederate statues once stood.
Color Of Change has been pushing to remove such statues for many years.
Through the Pedestal Project, users can enter a virtual world where statues of worthy idols are at last given recognition and hailed for their efforts, their resilient spirits, and the impact they have made on the present-day civil rights movement.
The project launches with three remarkable leaders to honor and virtually place them on top of empty pedestals where well-known Confederate soldiers such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, once stood.
“We cannot allow symbols like monuments to be a consolation prize — they must accompany real efforts to change laws and outcomes for real people, which is why we’re focusing on three of the many heroes fighting for concrete, anti-racist policy changes that will transform our country for the better,” he continued.
The project is highlighting the late John Lewis, Former U.S Congressman and Civil Rights leader, Alicia Garza, author, Principal at Black Futures Lab, and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, and Chelsea Miller, co-founder of Freedom March NYC.
AL DÍA recently spoke with Chelsea Miller to learn more about her background and how she feels this project will accelerate the movement for Black lives.
At only 24 years old, Miller has been featured in BET, Rolling Stone, Vogue, CNN and Financial Times for her courageous activism.
She co-founded the nationally recognized advocacy organization, Freedom March NYC that drives non-violent protests, pushes for policy change and voter mobilization.
Miller is the daughter of Jamaican immigrants and was raised by a single mother in Brooklyn.
She explained that activism wasn’t something she stumbled upon or felt called to. It has simply always been an innate part of her identity and lifestyle.
“Activism has always been a part of how I've navigated spaces, just realizing that the vantage points in which we all view the world look different, [as well as] the stepping stones in which we take on a daily basis,” Miller said.
More often than not, the paths we take are predetermined by where we live, how much capital we have, and other identities such as race, gender and religion.
“When you understand and unpack the history of this country, everything from gerrymandering to voter suppression to literacy tests to Jim Crow, it is very clear that race is a part of the very DNA of our American history. And there’s a lot that we have to reckon with,” Miller said.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, uprisings sprouted around the world, calling for justice. Participating members of these largely non-violent demonstrations were not only calling for justice for Floyd, but also for justice for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other victims of racially inspired violence.
Miller, like many of her Gen-Z peers, refused to stay silent, regardless of the very real risks involved in being a vocal leader.
“I don’t think that anyone wakes up one day and says ‘I want to lead a protest with police choppers in the air and with the threat of being pepper sprayed and hit by rubber bullets,” she said.
But Miller realized that her voice was needed, given the misconstrued narrative being broadcasted in mainstream media about the looting and rioting occurring in her city.
The focus was placed primarily on the violence and damage, rather than the root cause of the rage and grief that causes some people to commit such destruction.
Miller asserted that this cause is “state-sanctioned violence on Black lives and the lack of accountability within our policing system.”
“I went out there to center the message of the movement to stand in solidarity with Minneapolis and to ensure that we were advocating for policy change within New York as well, because it’s important to know that George Floyd wasn’t the first man who said ‘I can’t breathe.’ Eric Garner in New York also said ‘I can’t breathe,’ and there were so many before them,” she said.
Miller said she was delighted to be a part of Color Of Change’s new campaign which ideally will help to instill empathy in those who choose to participate, and grant them the opportunity to envision a radically different future; one that we all need to work towards.
“It’s an opportunity to redefine our reality and re-imagine what it looks like to exhume the narratives of civil rights leaders, to show the younger generation what it looks like to really elevate those stories and to make sure the images are powerful,” Miller said.
Miller believes that images play a role in how we form beliefs and thus how social norms are established.
“I think that it’s on us for this generation and generations moving forward to make sure that we are pushing back against those norms,” she said.
The debate over taking down statues of Confederate soldiers is still a controversial topic.
Opponents of the idea argue that the removal of these monuments erases history. Miller challenges these people to reflect on the influence of images in society.
Monuments that idolize people such as Stonewall Jackson or Robert E. Lee are symbols of oppression, and of viewing people as “three-fifths,” and we as a society must progress past these outdated and racist beliefs.
If our current values and beliefs are no longer aligned with the horrors of the past, and if we are collectively striving towards atonement and healing, these images hold us back.
“If the history praise is grounded on the dehumanization of others, then that’s not a history I can get behind,” Miller said.
The Pedestal Project is also calling for action for their participants, to continue the movement to remove all Confederate symbols in public spaces and replace them with leaders that inspire equality and hope. Color of Change has an online petition that users can sign, and the project’s website provides more information on how we can all “turn these ill-conceived pedestals into beacons of racial justice.”