Popular forum includes Gates' alleged comment "I'll speak to your mama outside."

 If there’s one positive thing about the controversy between Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley it’s the art in Central Square that’s recently sprung up.

Gates’ mugshot can be spotted on the graffiti wall next to Central Kitchen in Central Square, along with his alleged statement -- “I’ll speak with your mama outside” -- quoted from his arrest report.

Gary Strack, chef and owner of Central Kitchen, said the images that adorn the restaurant’s side wall are usually approved by him before going up. The artist behind the Gates piece, who Strack chose not to identify, has contributed to the graffiti wall before. Though Strack did not preview this particular piece before it was added, he says he trusted the artist to create something appropriate yet provocative.

“This wall is a forum for public speech,” said Strack, who is also a Harvard alumnus. “There is a certain level of freedom. Public expression goes back to the Roman days. People were writing on walls in Caesar’s time too.”

Strack is surprised that he has not received any negative comments regarding the graffiti, but thinks that even Gates might appreciate the artist’s attempt at taking a lighter approach to the incident that sparked a national debate on race. Gates is a customer at Central Kitchen, and though he hasn’t stopped by in a while, Strack said: “He’s a smart guy. I think he’s the kind of person that would take it well.”

Wicked Local Cambridge