CEO selling NFTs of Confederate monuments he took down

CEO selling NFTs of Confederate monuments he took down

By Chris Suarez,
The Richmond Times-Dispatch via The Associated Press

After removing the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond and nearly two dozen other statues across the city and state, Devon Henry is seeking to raise money for charity by selling digital artwork inspired by their removal in the crypto- currency market.

CryptoFederacy, Henry’s newest venture, recently launched its first series of artworks with the goal of raising a total of $13 million for various non-profit groups and social justice causes, including affordable housing development, gun violence prevention, access to mental health care and vote.

The 45-year-old CEO of Team Henry Enterprises, the contracting firm hired by the state and cities of Richmond and Charlottesville to take down Confederate monuments, said he formed the new company after pondering what to do next after participating in the historical. strive.

“The statues are down. But what’s next?” Henry said in an interview. “It’s about keeping the momentum going and keeping the awareness of what those statues meant — and taking a negative narrative and turning it into something positive.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam have ordered the removal of Confederate monuments in the former capital of the Confederacy in 2020 amid nationwide protests following the police killing of George Floyd. The orders came after several other states and localities across the country took similar steps to remove tributes to the Confederacy after a white supremacist killed nine black congregants in a church in Charleston, SC, five years earlier.

Henry said he was concerned when the governor’s chief of staff first approached him about removing the Lee monument. He was inclined to take it, but considered the fatal White supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and how a contractor’s car was firebombed in New Orleans.

Henry, who is Black, said he consulted his wife and children. They discussed what it would mean to remove the monuments that generations of people have felt represented oppression and racism and the risks it could pose.

“We came to the conclusion that we had to do it,” he said. “We must take these matters into our own hands and be courageous in doing so.”

Henry said the purpose of CryptoFederacy is to capitalize on the rise of new technologies such as Web3 and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to raise money for social justice.

The organization’s first project, established earlier this year, is The Thirteen Stars, a collection of digital art that includes 3D models of the Confederate monuments overlaid with newspaper headlines and illustrations of the statues with graffiti around them.

Anthony Bartley, who goes by the stage name Fading Royalty, created most of the artwork for the collection.

Bartley, 24, who is currently in St. Louis, where he attended Washington University, said he was excited to participate in the project after compiling a photo book of the 2020 protests. Proceeds from the book sales went to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Creating the artwork, he said, “brought me back to being in the middle of something bigger than me. And it felt good to be a part of it, especially knowing the proceeds were going to charity.”

The name of the collection is a reference to the 13 stars on the Confederate “Southern Cross” battle flag as well as each of the 13 causes to which CryptoFederacy intends to award $1 million with the proceeds from the sale of the artwork.

Michael Garvey, an economist and artist involved in the project, created three pieces for the collection. One of them depicts an alien plane “abducting” the statue of Robert E. Lee, while another shows all the monuments scattered in an arcade claw machine game.

Garvey, 33, said his work is meant to symbolize the progress into “the future” and how the project is meant to claim the monuments.

“It could be like taking some of the pressure … caused by the culture around the statues and taking money from this NFT project to relieve some of that pressure on us,” he said.

Henry said CryptoFederacy is still engaging potential nonprofit and charity partners for the project, but has already reached agreements with the Richmond-based Better Housing Coalition and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to support scholarships at historically Black colleges and universities.

Other artists have also recently tried to raise money from the sale of NFTs. For example, the Russian feminist art collective and punk rock group Pussy Riot helped raise more than $7 million earlier this year in support of Ukraine during the Russian invasion of the country, according to media reports.

Patrons can bid on The Thirteen Stars artwork using the cryptocurrency Ethereum. The auction website for the artwork says the minimum bid for each piece is 105 wrapped ether, which equates to about $182,000.

In addition to acquiring ownership rights to the artwork through the blockchain, a kind of digital public ledger that is the basis of cryptocurrency and NFT ownership, buyers will receive a small physical artifact of one of the monuments.

Henry said he chose to embrace the new cryptocurrency market and new art platform as a way to also encourage black entrepreneurship in an emerging market.

“I just feel like it’s going to be a part of our lives at some point,” he said. “I saw a lot of the stuff out there in the NFT space, and I thought it could be something more meaningful and historical that people could get behind and understand.”

Henry said he expects the auction for the artwork to remain open online until the end of August. He said CryptoFederacy will also release a second collection of NFT artwork later this summer.


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