On Ben’s Chili Bowl’s historic U Street location, there was a mural of alleged sex predator Bill Cosby that for many years the owners of Ben’s refused to remove. Now, the mural by Aniekan Udofia has been replaced with a white wall and the stenciled words, “New Year, New Mural.” The portraits of Barack Obama, Donnie Simpson, and Chuck Brown were also removed.
When asked why the entire mural was removed rather than just a portion, the artist in residence at Ben’s Chili Bowl, W. Ellington Felton, told Washingtonian, “Obama’s not in office. It’s the end of an era.” There is also interest in furthering community engagement with a new mural.
If interested in voting for what the new mural should be, go to Ben’s Chili Bowl’s website.
Before the mural was taken down, The Washington Post reported that the owners of the establishment had already been working to distance themselves from the comedian. In July 2015, a photo of Bill Cosby was removed from their walls of photos of celebrities and politicians who had visited or benefited Ben’s Chili Bowl.
Nine months earlier, Vida Ali, a member of the family that owns Ben’s, told Washington City Paper that there was no interest in painting over the mural or removing his “free-food privilege.”
At the time, Ali said, "Cosby is part of our family."
By October 2015, the mural wasn’t so much removed as defaced—with a portrait of Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea’s totalitarian regime. The person behind the act goes by the name Smear Leader, who has placed stickers of the Kim Jong Un portrait on random street signs and on the logo of a Washington football team helmet.
By this point, the owners of the restaurant seemed to be wrestling with whether or not to cover the mural, according to The Washington Post.
• Ben’s Chili Bowl Removes Bill Cosby Mural [Washingtonian]
• Bill Cosby Still Gets Free Food at Ben's Chili Bowl [Washington City Paper]
• D.C.’s Ben’s Chili Bowl appears to distance itself from Bill Cosby [The Washington Post]
• Bill Cosby mural was defaced with Kim Jong Un’s face in D.C. [The Washington Post]