Petition: Add Outkast to Confederate carving at Stone Mountain

Story highlights

  • Georgia-born artist proposes putting Outkast's Big Boi, Andre 3000 on Stone Mountain
  • The mountain, as it were, is controversial because it feature three Confederate icons on horseback
  • Thousands have signed a petition to add Atlanta hip-hop duo to the granite outcropping

(CNN)A Brooklyn-based artist and animator has devised a way to hush that fuss over the Confederate icons striding across Georgia's Stone Mountain.

Rather than trying to wash away the South's history -- as represented in a relief carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson -- Mack Williams proposes making that history more robust.
By adding sculptures of Atlanta's Outkast to the granite formation.
    "I believe that Daddy Fat Sacks and Three Stacks should be carved riding in a Cadillac (as is their wont). This will help the new carving blend nicely with the Confederates who are on horseback," Williams wrote, using Big Boi and Andre 3000's nicknames, in a moveon.org petition that had more than 5,600 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
    Williams, who hails from Blackshear, located about 100 miles southwest of Savannah, says he had the idea when he saw that the Atlanta branch of the NAACP wanted to completely remove the carvings, which it says were "commissioned out of hate and white supremacy."
    "I don't think the NAACP thinks anyone is going to sandblast that sculpture off the mountain," Williams told CNN.
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    Likewise, Williams doubts he can convince the powers that be to put Big Boi and Andre 3000, whose real names are Antwan Patton and André Benjamin, alongside the Confederate leaders.
    But he's pleased it's starting a dialogue, even if that dialogue is largely drowned out by vitriol spewed from those who missed the point. If it pans out, and the "Two Dope Boyz in a Cadillac" cruise onto the face of the outcropping, he'd be delighted.
    "It'd be a good compromise," said the former animation director of FX's "Archer."
    Granted, the chances are slim. The Stone Mountain Memorial Association operates the park as a sort of Confederate museum. Revenue, not tax dollars, cover its maintenance and operation, said association spokesman John Bankhead. The state Legislature must approve any changes to the park, he said.
    "This park is protected by the law," he told CNN.

    So, why Outkast?

    You see, as one of duo's many hits tells it, "A couple of years ago on Headland and Delowe, was the start of something good" -- so good that the duo hailing from East Point, outside Atlanta, became international names, paving a way for dozens of Atlanta rappers to follow.
    "Luda or T.I. or Jermaine Dupri have all done a lot for the Atlanta music scene ... but nobody unites Atlanta like Outkast," Williams said. "If the image of these Confederate (generals and president) is divisive, I can't think of anything that would unite us like Outkast."
    Other tongue-in-cheek ideas included having Georgia civil rights heroes "John Lewis and Andy Young facing off against the generals" or "carving up the mountain and putting people all over it," but being a fan of the band -- and seeing how Outkast sold out night after night of their reunion concerts at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park and elsewhere -- Williams decided the pair deserved their faces on a monument for posterity.
    To be clear, Williams is not a revisionist. He would never condone doing away with the monument, which he calls "technically and architecturally amazing" and "an engineering achievement."
    "But it's for the Confederacy, which in my opinion, is a horrible thing," he said. "I don't think a work of art needs to be judged on its intent. ... I also don't think we should erase that and pretend it didn't happen or pretend it wasn't there."

    'There's plenty of room'

    As he wrote in his petition, "I believe it's important to recognize the history and heritage of all Georgians. However, the carving of Davis, Lee, and Jackson on the side of Stone Mountain only represents a small, regrettable time in the history of the Peach State. It's high time we added a bit more of our history and culture to this monument.
    "By no means do we wish to erase or destroy the current carving, which, regardless of its context, is an impressive and historic work of art. We simply wish to add new carvings, of Atlanta hip-hop duo Outkast, to the mountainside. There's plenty of room."
    Williams acknowledges that the monument poses different challenges than does the Confederate flag itself, which has been the topic of hot debate across the South since Dylann Roof admitted to killing nine parishioners at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
    "If you're flying a Confederate flag above a government building, that's simple. Don't do that. But a football field-sized, epic carving on the side of a mountain? Maybe we need to have a conversation about why it's there and what it means today."
    As for those who have sent him nasty messages or hammered out hateful comments below the local media's online stories, Williams said he understands.
    "Racist people are scared right now in America. Your way of thinking is going extinct."