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 looking to raise money for charity by selling digital artwork inspired by their removal from the cryptocurrency market.

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

The 45-year-old CEO of Team Henry Enterprises, the contracting company that the state and the cities of Richmond and Charlottesville hired to demolish Confederate monuments, said he founded the new company after considering what he should do next after participating in the historic effort.

“The statues have fallen. 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 Confederate capital in 2020 amid nationwide protests over George’s murder Floyd by the police. The orders came after several other states and localities across the country took similar action to pay tribute to the Confederacy after a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, five years earlier. .

Henry said he was apprehensive when the governor’s chief of staff first approached him about the removal of the Lee monument. He was inclined to take it, but considered the fatal rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017 and how a contractor’s car in New Orleans was set on fire.

Henry, who is black, said he consulted with his wife and children. They discussed what it would mean to remove the monuments that generations of people believe have represented oppression and racism and the risks that might entail.

“We came to the conclusion that we had to do it,” he said. “We need to take these issues into our own hands and show courage.”

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

Founded earlier this year, the organization’s first project is The Thirteen Stars, a digital art collection that includes 3D models of Confederate monuments covered in newspaper headlines and artwork of the statues surrounded by graffiti.

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

Currently based in St. Louis, where he attended the University of Washington, Bartley, 24, said he was excited to be part of the project after curating a photography book about the 2020 protests. of books was donated to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Creating the artwork, he said, “took me back to doing something bigger than myself. And it feels good to be a part of it, especially knowing that the proceeds will go to charity.

The name of the collection refers to the 13 stars of the Confederate battle flag “Southern Cross” as well as each of the 13 causes to which CryptoFederacy intends to allocate $1 million with proceeds from the sale of the artwork of art.

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

Garvey, 33, said his work is meant to symbolize moving towards “the future” and how the project is meant to reclaim the monuments.

“It can be like taking some of the oppression…caused by the culture around 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 struck deals with the Richmond-based Better Housing Coalition and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to support college scholarships. and historically black universities.

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

Customers can bid on Thirteen Stars artwork using Ethereum cryptocurrency. The auction website for the artwork states that the minimum bid for each piece is 105 wrapped ethers, which equates to approximately $182,000.

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

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

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

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