As news of the provocative Nativity scene in Claremont got out, a trickle of vehicles began to make their way down the Foothill Boulevard frontage road that runs directly in front of the display.
Featured center in front of the cutouts of a Joseph and kneeling Mary is a mannequin-like figure of Trayvon Martin. The boy sits, eyes wide open, “blood” streaming down and pooling near his feet and flowing over the edge of the setting to help form the words, “A child is born. A son is given.”
The Claremont United Methodist Church and artist John Zachary created the display. And word of it has begun to spread rapidly.
“It’s different,” said Patricia Brayton,of Rancho Cucamonga. She looked on with a sense of awe and surprise. “That’s very bold. Very, very bold to put something like that, especially with the Nativity scene. I had heard it on KFI so I wanted to see it. It makes you really, (she paused) you know… I haven’t thought it all the way through but it really makes you think.”
“Who does that with a nativity scene?” she added. “I just had to see it.”
Most of what she has been hearing, particularly on KFI, has been negative backlash, she said. Several people have stunned reactions to the image.
In a plaque placed in front of the Nativity scene, its' creators explain “there is no better time to reflect on gun violence then advent, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born into a state of total vulnerability as an innocent, unarmed child during a time of great violence much like Trayvon Martin."
For former Claremont resident Dave Hamilton, the display, though intense, is not surprising.
“He’s done a lot of, I want to say, good stuff,” Dave Hamilton said. “And I’m not surprised by this.”
He’s come out for past displays. One spotlighted the plight of the poor by featuring a shopping cart, he said. He has taken photos. He finally got out to catch some photos of the most recent and most controversial late Friday.
“It’s sad that it happened,” Hamilton said of Trayvon’s shooting. “This kid is where he shouldn’t have been. But it’s America. You can be wherever you want to be. This guy (Zimmerman) went too far.”
And with that, Hamilton agreed the artist may have just accomplished what he set out to do, start a conversation.
“We’ve come to see the nativity as a representation of something that is comfortable and pleasant and wonderful in our lives,” Zachary says on a Youtube video produced by Inland Valley Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen. “I want to make it about something that Jesus would have taught, something that was thought provoking and something that was a contemporary issue about social justice.”