Monday, July 21, 2008

Civil Rights Memorial unveiling

Today the new Virginia Civil Rights Memorial was unveiled at Capitol Square.

The sculpture by Stanley Bleifeld (at the podium above) includes 18 bronze figures emerging from a block of granite. It sits on the ground, so people can touch it, so tourists and pilgrims can stand beside the figures to pose for photos, so children can play on it.

The ceremony itself was well attended. Poet Nikki Giovanni probably got the biggest applause when she finished her remarks. I hope to locate and publish the text of what she said, but it started with something like, “This is not a poem.” She concluded with “This is a rocket, let’s ride” (at the beginning of the video).

This $2.6 million project began in 2002 with a little girl -- former Gov. Mark Warner’s youngest daughter, Eliza -- asking her mother why there were no statues in Capitol Square honoring women, or the heroes of the Civil Rights Era.

Today the art itself honored the bravery of children in 1951, when a 16-year-old Barbara Johns led a “walk-out” demonstration, protesting the outrageously separate-but-unequal conditions at Moton High School in Farmville.

Warner’s wife, Lisa Collis, spoke today of how much the new monument was about, and for, children. It was Collis who spearheaded this magnificent effort. Looking at her smiling face today, it was hard to think of how she could have done a better job.

For background on this story click here.

Barbara Johns' quote, said of the 1951 students' demonstration, was carved in granite for all children to see -- "It was like reaching for the moon."


Click here to read Michael Paul Williams on the unveiling ceremony.

-- Words, photos and video by F.T. Rea

Update II:

Click here, then here to watch/listen to the speakers at the ceremony.

1 comment:

RoyB said...

Yeah, it was a FINE occasion! Many years coming, too. One nice thing is that almost all of the speeches were short -- possibly because the politicians were sitting in direct sunlight, and mostly wearing suit-and tie. The rest of us were wearing jeans-and-tees, and mostly standing in the shade.

Had no trouble from Capitol Police for open-carrying, though a couple of State Police were leery -- though polite and correct.