As for the picnic photo with NSM members, swastika flags, and sieg heils?

"It was a group photo," he said. "They had a barbecue afterward. I was invited to it. J.T. Ready was my ride there and back. That was it."

Harris told me that he had taken the profile down after I confronted him about it, and hadn't been on the site for months. As for Ready, Harris said he was a "good guy," with whom he sometimes had strong disagreements.

The African-American child that was painted over
Francisco Garcia
The African-American child that was painted over
Artist Francisco Garcia with the image that replaced "blue boy"
Stephen Lemons
Artist Francisco Garcia with the image that replaced "blue boy"

In the future, Harris said, he will be careful about who he associates with, and that the trip to Riverside was an "eye-opener."

"There are some very scary people out there, bro," he told me, not wanting to give additional details.

Harris also complained that he went to the Riverside "under false pretenses."

I can't get inside Harris' head to figure out why someone who claims to be such a brainiac would attend a neo-Nazi rally, hang out with the most notorious brown-shirt in the state, and post a NewSaxon account with a photo of his tyke on it.

One thing's for sure: Warren Buffett the guy is not.

BLUE BOY

The twin towns of Pine and Strawberry, just outside of Payson, are surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Mogollon Rim, a mountainous shelf of rock that seems to encircle and embrace the piney area.

But like the burg in the David Lynch flick Blue Velvet or his TV show Twin Peaks, the tranquility of the area masks disturbing tendencies. That's what I discovered when I drove up to the Pine-Strawberry Elementary School to take a look at a not-yet-complete mural by Phoenix artist Francisco Garcia.

One side of the single-story school is covered with outlines of images, some finished, some not. There's a brown buffalo, the school's mascot. Musicians. Kids playing baseball. And in the far left corner, there's a rustic cabin that represents a historic structure, a one-room schoolhouse that's purportedly the oldest schoolhouse in Arizona.

However, that schoolhouse was not always part of Garcia's mural. At the behest of the Principal Mike Clark and school board members such as Diane Roeder, Garcia painted over the original image of an African-American boy in a baseball cap. Garcia had made the boy blue and had planned to paint the other faces depicted in the mural other colors.

Garcia, a sophomore in art and Chicano studies at Phoenix College and recipient of the college's Eric Fischl Vanguard Scholarship and the Eric Fischl Award of Merit, explained that Clark and Roeder began getting heat from locals as soon as the blue boy went up. So Garcia was asked to paint over the boy with something "less controversial."

"I was shocked. It's a kid," Garcia told me on the car ride to Pine. "And he's not even black; he's blue. Then [they] asked me if I can change the features. This made me mad as an artist because I worked on it all day. And it was approved. Once you approve an image it's done."

Garcia said his initial sketch for the mural, created after a workshop he conducted with some of the 135 students who attend the school, included an image of Martin Luther King Jr. He said he was told that the kids could not relate to MLK. So he came up with other images, including the blue boy, that were approved by Principal Clark, he said.

Clark denied during a phone conversation that he had approved the blue boy, and he could not recall whether Garcia's initial sketch included an image of Martin Luther King Jr. But his comments in e-mails that Garcia saved, and in a conversation Garcia taped (unbeknownst to others present) of a meeting with Roeder and Clark, are eyebrow-raising.

In one e-mail, Clark outlined some of the comments he had received from the community, including a fairly reasonable one: "The gun the Transformer is holding must be deleted."

The principal also said, "The mural overall needs more of a country flavor to it. We live in the country/mountains, not Phoenix.

"[There are] some questions on why an African-American boy is depicted so prominently," Clark wrote. "This is not a racial comment; it's just that there are no African-American students attending Pine-Strawberry School."

(Clark admitted to me that there is one African-American child in the school, as well as a few Hispanic kids. Otherwise, he said the small student body was mostly Anglo.)

"Faces need to be less ethnic," Clark told Garcia. "Again, not a racial thing. The reality of our community is that the community [is] 95 [percent] Anglo."

In the digital recording of Garcia's meeting with Roeder and Clark, similar issues came up. Such surreptitious recordings are legal in Arizona, as long as one party knows it is being taped. Garcia told me he decided to make the recording after things started getting "crazy."

During the meeting, Clark noted that the mural had become "a political issue," and he described getting constant phone calls and critical community members showing up at the school.

"I don't even apologize," Clark said at one point. "I should have foreseen this happening."

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22 comments
Teo Buneo
Teo Buneo

Wow, such small minded racism emanating from that beautiful spot in the woods below the rim. Their small minded red-necks think they are the end all, be all of AmeriKKKa! The superintendent of public instruction must remove all such school administrators who demonstrate such outrageous racism or sheer cowardice in the face of blatant racism. The artist has a signed contract that can be legally enforced, if he has to go to court to collect his payment the final bill for Pine/Strawberry will be very much larger. Not to mention the loss of tourist dollars from the enlightened majority of Americans who want no contact with such disgusting examples of humanity cowering in the cracks and crevices of the Mogollon Rim hiding from the twenty-first century!

Jean Sipes
Jean Sipes

It is really sad when an article like "Blue Boy" comes along. It's yet another painful reminder that we live in a racist state. Although racism is a problem nation-wide it is more blatant here than anywhere else I have lived. I had thought of moving and opening a business in northern Arizona when I retire, but now I have my doubts. I have African American ancestry although for the most part I am white. I have heard alot of locals make crude jokes or statements about black people;sometimes it's very hard to bite my tounge.

I am now opting for California.

Katie
Katie

Ya just don't quit do you. Pining for justice is suck a bigot himself he only wants to use the racist card like it's water. I find it so funny that you have a problem with an anglo not wanting MLK on the side of a school building. Are children are not ignorant they simple are not african-american and the very few who are are wonderful They might not dress like little gangsters or talk in a slang but they are great kids. Unlike you they don't see color. They have all learned about MLK he just not their hero, he yours.Just like any polatician MLK wasn't perfect either, he had his down fall, he made stupid mistakes. Why do you have such a problem with that? This artist is good at what he does. The project was for him to incorporate the kids art into the side of the school building. He got ticked because MLK was not suppose to be apart of it neither was Boy Blue. He and the reporter saw an opportunity to cause conflict. Shame on both of you. How sick it is to cause so much grief over something so silly. I would love to hear someone definition of a hick town. Don't forget we do have some hispanics and africa-americans that lives hear and what you call us is what you call them.

By the way, why don't you read Wise ass latina commets about this town and look at a map. I wouldn't blame them for looking at tapes after the commets that were made.

Pining4Justice
Pining4Justice

James says: "I beleive that the artist and the writer has turned this into a racial issue to sell paper and t-shirts."

Why shouldn't the artist kid try to make a buck after your racist hillbilly town stiffed him for the work he did? Hell, I'd buy one, and drive up to figgin Pine just to walk around town with it on.

You inbreeds just do not get it. "Unfortunately little boy blue has really nothing to do with the history of this town nor does MLK." MLK has nothing to do with your town? Tell that to the few brown and black people who live there, you idiot.

Sorry, you don't get to establish a white homeland in Pine-Strawberry. Interesting that you aim a threat at the wise ass Latina. If she shows up in your hick backwater again, what are you gonna do, lynch her?

James
James

Yo, wise ass latino, there is no senic route from Payson to Pinetop that goes through Pine. Look at your map. My Wife and I both lived in the phoenix area and were educated there as well. Before you make all the hick town commets about this well established town, let me remind you that many of us work in Phoenix too. So we might rub of on you.I think this artist should have know his subject before he went to work on this mural. This town has alot of great history and none of that was portrayed in the mural. Unfortunately little boy blue has really nothing to do with the history of this town nor does MLK. We do like taking that monday off, so thanks! I beleive that the artist and the writer has turned this into a racial issue to sell paper and t-shirts (so says the artical dated Nov. 19th). That's what I call irresponsible reporting. Are children are very well educated and well rounded. So before you jump to any conclusions you should come and see what your bitchin about. If we don't like you it won't be because of the ethenic back round it will be because your attitude sucks.

P.S. Wise ass latina, they are checking the tapes right now.

Katie
Katie

So let me get this straight, I don't want this beautiful little town to look like the hood so that makes me and everyone in this town racist and I'm not the one who complained about it. I got news for you, most of us moved here from the valley so if your under some weird impression that we all don't have friends from different walks of life guess again. People are different, people like different things, they like different colors, shape and size. I don't beleive that style looks good in this town. I applaud Mr. Clark, he obviously saw talent in this guy and thought he'd give him a chance. It didn't work out, so what. Get over it. People use the racist card way to much. I have noticed people who do, are usually the racist one trying to cause problems. I will be happy to come down to Phoenix and paint a big huge white kid with a cowboy hat on the side of your schools anytime you like, you let me know how well that goes over for ya. The sad thing is that when you paint over it I wouldn't call you racist.

gerald barnes
gerald barnes

>> Gerald Barnes 11/20/09 10:39 AM >>> It is too white for me -or is this for real . After reading aboutBlue Boy, i did not think those people would show there true colors, butI am glad they did, I wont be spending any money in that area ofArizona. It is 2009 and those kids can not relate to MLK. You peopleare from the past , you people do not believe in diversity. You peoplewho suppose to be educated, enlighten ,or do light crosses,makes mewonder where did you get your education from. Because believe me, youpeople forgot the most important element the kids.Oh this is not aracial comment. this from barnes5353@yahoo.com

HiFructose
HiFructose

The answer to your question is, yes, that would be the party taping. As for a reasonable expectation of privacy, the law is very specific. Here it is:

"13-3019. Surreptitious photographing, videotaping, filming or digitally recording or viewing; exemptions; classification; definitionsA. It is unlawful for any person to knowingly photograph, videotape, film, digitally record or by any other means secretly view, with or without a device, another person without that person's consent under either of the following circumstances:1. In a restroom, bathroom, locker room, bedroom or other location where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and the person is urinating, defecating, dressing, undressing, nude or involved in sexual intercourse or sexual contact."

Are you suggesting that the principal, that woman and Garcia were naked during their meeting?

Dee
Dee

Taping is legal as long as one party knows? Would that be the person taping? The rule is no consent is necessary if there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. I would imagine a conference in the principal's office with the door closed would be an expectation of privacy. And, if the first thing painted on a predominately Latino or Black school was a gigantic white kid, it would raise holy hell in THAT community. Phoenix has as many racists per capita as Pine and Strawberry. Phoenix racists come from a wider variety of ethnicities, however. There's more to the story here than the slanted reporting encompasses - the reporter so afraid to let go of that "racist" label. As an artist, Mr. Garcia needs to learn that old maxim: The one who pays the piper calls the tune. Mr. Garcia's is an outstanding artist. Perhaps he's a bit of a bully, liar, and racist, as well.

Wise Ass Latina
Wise Ass Latina

For the writer to says, "I invite you to visit ..." NO THANKS. I did visit while driving through some scenic roads on my way to Payson and then to Pinetop.

I stopped at a gas station and went inside to grab a soda and the stares I got from the locals were amazing as if to say; what are you doing here?

Part of me felt terrible and unwelcome there. Another part of me wanted to shout out "Dang, This place is way better than the projects in da hood - I can't wait to move here. Hi, looks like me and my 7 kids will be part of your hood soon!

I wound up not saying it, though I wonder what would of happened if I did. They probably would of thought their Obama nightmare came true. Ha ha.

Visit? No thanks, keep your hillbilly little hick town and your close minded people to stay ignorant in their caves. Oh, and by the way... for that guy at the register who kept staring at me while I was at the store; I didn't steal anything.

Joe Curwen
Joe Curwen

Looks like the good burghers of Pine / Strawberry don't know much about art. They do know what they like, though: white people.

Myndi
Myndi

Whoa, whoa WHOA everyone - I think there are some clear misunderstandings here. I live here have raised 2 girls here both whom attended Pine Strawberry for 10 years Pre - 8. My youngest is VP of the Pine Strawberry Student Council and was a part of and excited about the mural. My oldest is a firefighter and in college. The intent of this project was to take art provided by the students and tranlate it into a mural for the school - an awesome idea. Apparently a handful of adults had a problem with some of the images. I only saw it in partial and was not about to pass any judgement until it was done. We are a primarily anglo community and very small town - but racist, NO! Unprepared for the real world? No. Our children are as prepared as any can with the parenting available to them. Their education is excellent. Two of the boys raised here now serve in the Marines and one is on active duty in Afganistan. Some of our "town kids" have gone on to jobs in Washington and attended Universities all over the world. It's sad that Mr. Garcia and our School had a falling out - I'm sure it will be resolved in a satisfactory manner. But let's not pass judgement on one story when you've not lived here, cried with us, laughed with us and gotten to know us. I'd invite you all to visit Pine-Strawberry we are a great community!

Unfuckinbelievable
Unfuckinbelievable

"He said he was told that the kids could not relate to MLK." WTF? That's your job as educators, to TEACH the kids about Martin Luther King. Amazing. What a dumb little hick town. Racist redneck dipshits.

Kathi
Kathi

I have to say this is a horrible story. I have had the pleasure of meeting Francisco and viewing his work, and it's incredible. The people of Strawberry really do not know what they are missing and it's thier loss.

Joseph P.
Joseph P.

Glad the article was written.Is there a way I can see the entire mural?

All
All

Thats ignorant of them to making him paint over the blue boy they should of known who they were hiring for the mural before hand if they wanted some damm cowboy painting since there in a "rural area" hire somebody that paints cowboys they want say is not racist ,but thats exactly what it is...

elenuf!
elenuf!

I think those people are racist, and should pay the artist what he worked for, its not his fault that the people didnt like it. After all the images were approved by the principal!!

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Stephen, This was another eye-opener. Is there any place in Arizona where we can get away from thus bigotry and racism. Guess TommyC hit the nail on the head.

Black Gold
Black Gold

So, jazzbo, just what is "ugly" about the image? The fact that it's a black child? I have never seen a more obvious example of racism. What would you think, jazzbo, if a mostly black school decided to paint out a white kid? Were that to happen, Fox news would lead with it. Rush Limbaugh would be outraged. Glenn Beck would have a field day. This child is beautiful, as are all children, no matter their color or where they live.

TommyC
TommyC

Chris, really, concentrate on what's happening in Georgia. We don't need your horseshit here.

I have to agree with Mr. Garcia. Once the kids leave Pine there's a whole new world out there and most of them are not white anymore. I think the community should embrace the idea of preparing their children for life as adults. But, they are probably still buying chewing tobacco for the boys when they reach the age of ten. The girls, of course, get their first child at 14 or so... and many times the baby looks just like dear old Dad.... I wonder why that is..

jazzbo13
jazzbo13

95% Anglo. Sounds like a great place that doesn't want ugly urban images painted on it's buildings. Why not just organize local talent without bringing outside agitators?

Chrislongski
Chrislongski

Yeah, lemons: There IS a victim under every rock if you look hard enough...

This week's victim report.

 
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