Late Wednesday morning, artist James Reid beamed as his Billie Holiday sculpture was reinstalled atop the black marble pedestal he'd always envisioned for it. The statue, originally erected on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1985, was supposed to include a pedestal with panels illustrating two of Holiday's best known songs, "Strange Fruit" and "God Bless the Child," but, according to Reid, city officials (including William Donald Schaefer) objected to the images (one of a lynching, the other of a baby attached to an umbilical cord) and excluded them from the monument. As a result, the statue sat at ground level, to underwhelming effect, for nearly 25 years.
Jim Burger wrote about the long-simmering controversy in the July 2005 issue of Baltimore, and, at that time, the O'Malley administration promised to rectify the situation, but nothing ever materialized.
Today, on the 50th anniversary of Holiday's death, the finished monument will be rededicated.
"She's now been properly elevated," Reid said on Wednesday, after the statue was placed on the pedestal. "We all should look up to Billie Holiday, and now we can do exactly that."
[Photo: Jim Burger]