Gelila Mesfin—the talented Black artist whose painting of Michelle Obama was plagiarized—is seeking what she’s owed.
DNAinfo reports Mesfin’s legal team is requesting $12,000—the amount Chicago urban planner Chris Devins raised via GoFundMe to create the mural—to be paid as compensation. They’re also seeking additional compensation for the damages suffered from his “willful infringement of [Mesfin’s] copyrights and moral rights.”
But of course—as appropriators gon’ do—Devins denies having prior knowledge of Mesfin as the original creator, and claims that since the mural is “a public service,” he has not personally profited, and therefore doesn’t owe her anything.
“I sell no T-shirts, mugs, prints or anything like that,” Devins reportedly said in an e-mail. “If they ask for future earnings based on all the publicity I got, I can point out that the publicity was overwhelmingly negative and that she also got publicity, the majority positive, painting her as the victim of some conspiracy to steal something she is selling online for $12.”
He continued, “It is I who created the $12,000, the value in this project, based on my mural skills, placemaking, project management, fund raising and former good reputation.”
Instead, he’s proposing to hang a plaque acknowledging Mesfin’s creative ownership beside the mural, which is located in South Shore at 74th Street and Chappel Avenue. He also told The Atlantic he’d be “willing” to pay a fee of “up to $1,000” now that he knows who she is.
This feels like a good time for a song break:
CASSIUS reached out to Mesfin for comment but has yet to hear back.