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Mural on Hugo liquor store decried as racist

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  • Robert V. Schmidt
    http://www.newsok.com/article/1579743 Mural on Hugo liquor store decried as racist By Penny Cockerell State Correspondent HUGO - A liquor store mural has
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 15, 2005
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      Mural on Hugo liquor store decried as racist

      By Penny Cockerell
      State Correspondent

      HUGO - A liquor store mural has sparked cries of racism and bad taste
      despite the shop owner's insistence that he was only trying to beautify an
      ugly side of the city.

      Bob Almond had the mural painted on the side of West Main Liquor store more
      than a year ago. However, it has just now caught the attention of some
      Choctaw Indians. They find it offensive and have rallied to pressure Almond
      to whitewash the mural.

      One drove from the West Coast to join the fight and said she met several
      from other states and a variety of races, who joined local Choctaw Indians
      to complain to Almond, the Hugo Chamber of Commerce and the Choctaw

      The mural, which cost Almond $800, depicts a white man selling whiskey from
      the back of a wagon to an Indian. The mural also depicts three black men,
      two standing in line and apparently wearing Indian robes, a white man
      drinking from a bottle and an Indian family in the background.

      "The depiction is racist and it is sexist and it's unfortunate that the
      owner of the store doesn't have the ability to see that. There's this
      ingrained kind of insensibility that it's OK to have stereotypes against
      Indians," said Senna Heyatawin, a Choctaw Indian from the West Coast. "I'm
      sure he probably didn't think it was racist, God bless him for that, but it

      Indeed, Almond says he had no racist intentions and will paint out the
      Indians, women and children. Many of his customers are American Indians, he
      said, and they've never complained. He also said "two carloads of
      full-blooded Choctaw women" came to look at the mural and saw nothing wrong
      with it.

      But two women who were offended have called and threatened to burn his
      store down, he says. Another woman called from Durant and threatened to
      bring in the NAACP.

      "They talked to me like I was some kind of animal," Almond said. "I'm
      married to an Indian lady, been married 38 years to her. I was raised with
      Indians, grew up with them and didn't mean to offend anybody."

      Political correctness

      Almond said he simply wanted the mural to reflect his business of selling
      liquor and he chose to add all races to be politically correct.

      "I have probably got 50 full-blood Indian customers and not a one of them
      ever said a thing about that mural," Almond said. "Eighty-five percent of
      my customers are black and, in fact, I had one guy get mad while it was
      being painted because he hadn't painted the black man yet. He said, 'You
      better put a black man in that.'"

      Leaders of the Choctaw Nation spoke with Almond, who agreed to change the
      mural -- that is, if he can get past his wife, Sheila Almond, a Chickasaw
      Indian, who thinks the mural ought to stay.

      "The Indians need to stop and think where their heritage is," Sheila Almond
      said. "As far as the drinking is concerned, all the Indians drink. And the
      blacks drink and they're intermixed with the Indians. I don't see the big
      uproar about the thing. It's just a painting and if the women in Hugo don't
      like it, they need to take another route to work."

      Her husband also lambasted the Choctaw community for putting casinos
      everywhere, which creates gamblers who can't feed their children or pay
      their bills.

      And he said he's cared for homeless Indians when members of their own tribe
      would just drive past them.

      "These homeless Indian boys that's been on this street, I've helped them
      more than anyone down here," Almond said.

      Private business

      Hugo has no ordinance addressing murals. City Manager David Rawls said West
      Main Liquor is a private business and the owner can do what he wants, as
      long as it isn't obscene.

      "Art tends to be different things for different people," he said. "But if
      the Indian population is offended by it, I personally would side with

      So most likely this weekend, Almond will head outside with a paintbrush and
      change the mural that he said was a poorly done job in the first place.

      "I'll just paint them all white," he said. "And someone will gripe about
      that, I'm sure."
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