- Associated Press - Friday, September 8, 2017

NEW YORK (AP) - Harry Belafonte and World Trade Center memorial designer Michael Arad will advise New York City officials on what to do with statues and monuments seen as oppressive, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday.

They are among 18 members of a commission on public art, monuments and markers chosen by Democratic mayor to help develop guidelines for addressing monument that some people believe are inconsistent with the city’s values.

The panel is being convened amid protests over Confederate monuments in cities around the country.

Some in New York City have called for the removal of a statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims, who operated on enslaved black women without their informed consent. Others say the towering statue of Columbus donated to the city in 1892 should go.

“There’s an important conversation taking place right now about history and representation in public art, monuments and markers,” de Blasio said. He said the commission will be creating “a thoughtful set of guidelines that acknowledge the complexities of history and the values that matter to us as New Yorkers.”

The advisory panel will be co-chaired by Ford Foundation President Darren Walker and the city’s commissioner of cultural affairs, Tom Finkelpearl.

Besides Belafonte, an entertainer and longtime civil-rights activist, and Arad, whose design for twin memorial pools was chosen out of 5,200 entries in a competition, the commission includes artists, writers and academics in diverse fields.

Jon Meacham, a biographer of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, and Mary Schmidt Campbell, the president of Spelman College in Atlanta, also are members.

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