Ben’s Chili Bowl re­painted wall of im­por­tant icons

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY EMMA AY­ERS

The un­veil­ing of Ben’s Chili Bowl new mu­ral on U Street NW be­came po­lit­i­cal in no time at all on Wed­nes­day.

D.C. politi­cos such as Mayor Muriel Bowser, Del­e­gate Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton and coun­cil mem­ber Bri­anne Nadeau ad­dressed a crowd of chili lovers, many of whom sported state­hood pins and stickers on the their clothes.

“I am just very proud to say that there has never been a bet­ter time in Wash­ing­ton where we are in­vest­ing in our schools, our neigh­bor­hoods and we are cleaner and safer than ever,” said Miss Bowser. “We ded­i­cate this wall to peo­ple who have made our city bet­ter and the DMV [District, Mary­land, Vir­ginia] area bet­ter.”

The new mu­ral, fea­tur­ing AfricanAmer­i­can lead­ers, ath­letes and en­ter­tain­ers, dis­plays some faces from the orig­i­nal such as lo­cal ra­dio per­son­al­ity Don­nie Simp­son and for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, whose wife — for­mer first lady Michelle Obama — now is in­cluded among the por­traits on the iconic eatery’s wall.

Images of other no­ta­bles such as abo­li­tion­ist Har­riet Tub­man, “Em­pire” ac­tress Taraji P. Hen­son, box­ing cham­pion Muham­mad Ali and Grammy Award-win­ning singer Roberta Flack are pre­sented with like­nesses of singer/ mu­si­cian Prince and gui­tarist Chuck Brown, the District’s very own “god­fa­ther” of go-go mu­sic.

No­tably ab­sent from the wall is co­me­dian Bill Cosby, whose im­age on the old mu­ral was de­faced in 2015 af­ter dozens of women came for­ward to ac­cuse him of drug­ging and sex­u­ally as­sault­ing them over sev­eral years. (A Penn­syl­va­nia judge last week de­clared a mis­trial in the only crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing to emerge from the ac­cu­sa­tions.)

But the diner’s own­ers have de­scribed Mr. Cosby as “still fam­ily,” and his freemeals-for-life ben­e­fit re­mains in­tact.

Ms. Nor­ton was hon­ored Wed­nes­day for her place in the mu­ral, as well as her work as the District’s non­vot­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Congress. Dur­ing her short speech, she couldn’t re­sist talk­ing about the cur­rent pres­i­dent.

“I’ve got to tell you the truth. When I hear the word ‘wall,’ I go into fight­ing mode, be­cause we’re so busy fight­ing Don­ald Trump’s wall,” said Ms. Nor­ton, a Demo­crat who is serving her 14th term. “But who would not want to be on Ben’s wall? The Alis have done so much for this town.”

The diner’s founder, Ben Ali, died in 2009 at the age of 82.

Ben’s son, Ka­mal Ali, used his time at the podium to ad­vo­cate for D.C. state­hood.

“Can we get a vote Congress? Our city is chang­ing. What would Mar­ion Barry on that wall say? ‘Don­ald Trump is pres­i­dent?’ What would Har­riet Tub­man say?” Mr. Ali said, as the crowd cheered. “They’re say­ing the same thing that Barack and Michelle are say­ing. The same thing ev­ery­one on this wall is say­ing: Give D.C. res­i­dents a vote!”

The D.C. De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works and the Com­mis­sion on the Arts and the Hu­man­i­ties worked with Ben’s Chili Bowl on the mu­ral project.


Ben’s Chili Bowl in North­west Wash­ing­ton un­veiled Wed­nes­day its newly re­designed mu­ral, an iconic por­trait of black celebri­ties.

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