A poetic protest over the South Carolina statue of a controversial figure was held on State House grounds over the weekend, the Free Times reports. Protest organizers said the celebrated narrative of J. Marion Sims, also called the “father of modern gynecology,” must be changed. Sims was known for surgically experimenting on enslaved women suffering from injuries caused by prolonged labor that often resulted in stillbirth, all while never using anesthesia.
Called the MEND Marathon, the protest Saturday was named for a book of narrative poems written by co-organizer Kwoy Fagin Maples about the Black women Sims tortured in the name of science.
Sims’ brutal experiments have sparked protests across the nation.
Protesters in New York City demanded the removal of Sims’ statue from Central Park, DNA Info reports. Members of the Black Youth Project 100 wore blood-stained hospital gowns “to signify the pain and danger many enslaved women went through during experiments performed by Sims.” A city councilman called the Central Park monument “‘Hitler’ in statue,” adding, “we treat guinea pigs better than we treated those victims.”
The mayor of South Carolina’s capital city also called for the removal of the Sims monument from State Grounds. “I’ve called [Sims] a lot of different things, but I think a butcher is accurate,” Columbia Mayor Steve K. Benjamin told WLTX19. “I believe that most people when they read the story will find it chilling.”
Sims, who subjected one enslaved woman in particular to 30 experimental surgeries, named only three of the many women he operated on in his autobiography: Anarcha, Betsey and Lucy. The three women are the subject of Fagin Maples’ collection and the catalysts for last weekend’s poetry marathon, in which organizers called for additions to, rather than the removal of, Sims’ monument.
The purpose of MEND was to revise the narrative about Sims, not erase it, co-organizer Joy Priest said.
“A lot of the tension in the country is that people are calling for removal of the legacy, of the narrative, and it’s disrupting the facade of white America,” Priest told the Free Times. “We’re calling for the revision of the narrative and inclusion of the voices that were silenced through the poems.”