Ally Profile: Keith Haring’s Ghost

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Over the past few months, we have been highlighting Keith Haring Ghost’s (KHG) work, from around the city.  Some believe the artwork to be vandalism – we do not agree.  Throughout history, art has been used as a means for expressing the things that we cannot or are not always allowed to share through spoken word.  Keith Allen Haring was an artist and social activist whose work responded to the New York City street culture of the 1980s by expressing concepts of birth, death, sexuality and war…concepts that were considered taboo at the time.

Keith Haring was an openly gay man and a strong advocate for safe sex.  However, his life was cut tragically short on February 16, 1990, due to AIDS. Before his death, he established the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.

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Inspired by his advocacy work, KHG told Queerty, he “has been beautifying the electric box eyesores of Jacksonville, Florida with images inspired by the late, great Haring as protest to the city failing to pass an equal rights ordinance that would have granted workplace protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

KHG’s work can be found all around Jacksonville, we have also highlighted his pieces on our InstagramFacebook and Pinterest pages, but the artwork is now being called into question by some city leaders as vandalism.  These officials have demanded the removal of the murals, from around the city, with the possible arrest of KHG.  As allies of the LGBT movement, and proponents for full equality for every person in our community, we stand in solidarity with Keith Haring’s Ghost.  Furthermore, we implore our city leaders to leave his artwork in place and focus their energy, instead, on passing a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Ally Update:  On March 19, 2014, Keith Haring’s Ghost was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for ‘felony’ vandalism charges for the beautiful ‘graffiti’ he has created around the city of Jacksonville.  Keith, aka Chip Southworth, was later released on bond, but he has an arduous road ahead as he has to answer in court for the work he has created to not only beautify the city, but to help get the message out about being more loving and tolerant of others.  We Are Straight Allies will be advocating on Chip’s behalf for charges to be dropped, but in the meantime, there are legal (and medical) expenses his family will face – his wife is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment.  Great minds are coming together to not only help Chip, but also send a message to the city that intolerance will no longer be tolerated.  Beautifying the city of Jacksonville is a necessity, both physically and in the hearts and minds of its citizens.  We hope you will join us and donate to the ‘Chip in for Chip’ fund.
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