Jamaican-American Artist Ya La’ford Picked for Florida Courageous 12 Memorial

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A Jamaican-American artist Ya La’Ford has been chosen to create a memorial sculpture to honor the “courageous 12” in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The courageous 12 is a group of Black police officers, who in 1965, filed a discrimination lawsuit, to gain the full rights and authority of their white counterparts. The lawsuit was filed at a time when the City of St. Petersburg was segregated and black police officers only being allowed to patrol predominantly black neighborhoods. Black officers had no authority to arrest white citizens.

The lawsuit went to federal court on March 31 and on April 1, 1966, Judge Joseph Lieb dismissed the case. The Courageous 12, with the help of the NAACP, filed an appeal and on August 1, 1968, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in their favor, reversing Judge Lieb’s decision.

The ruling paved the way for four black officers in Tampa to file a similar lawsuit and win. Across the country, The Courageous 12’s legal victory opened the door for minorities to have equal rights to their white counterparts and the opportunity to be promoted through the ranks in law enforcement agencies.

In December, the City of St. Petersburg chose Ya La’Ford to create the statue titled “badge of Justice”. The bronze sculpture will stand at the former St. Petersburg Police Department headquarters. No date yet has been announced for the commencement of the project.

La’Ford is the granddaughter of renowned Jamaican artist, John Dunkley. She has painted murals in the Warehouse Arts District, including the “King’s Dream Unite” piece at the Manhattan Casino in St. Petersburg.

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