How did the North Carolina Freedom Park project begin?
Brief History and Overview of the Project:
In June 2002, a meeting was held at the Martin Luther King Resource Center in Raleigh. That meeting (and several subsequent community meetings held at locations across the state of North Carolina) was attended by a broad-based cross-section of community leaders, activists, educators, and civic minded people with an interest in history and a commitment to social and racial justice. At the meeting, the planning for what would become the North Carolina Freedom Park Project began. During the course of the day, citizens of North Carolina considered what they would like to say together in public to honor the Black and African American contributions to our state and to come to terms with the history of racism as the state moved into the 21st Century. While the initial vision and funding in 2002 came from the Paul Green Foundation, over the course of the intervening years, committed citizens and community leaders worked together sharing experiences, engaging in difficult albeit transformative conversations about experiences of race and racism during town meetings in various locations around the state, engaging in site selection, artist selection, focus groups, planning meetings and developing educational materials. Indeed, at one point, the suggestion was made that an apt memorial for this project would be a publicly displayed looping video of all of the meetings, discussions, and ideas that were considered over the years.
Just as it took 33+ years of passionate individuals working to complete the Washington Memorial in Washington D.C., the passion and the commitment to this commemorative project has not waned over the past 20+ years and instead, has continued to gain momentum and broader support despite political and economic setbacks faced along the way. Today, the NC Freedom Park Project Board members, all of whom are volunteers, along with our partners and friends, are pleased and proud of this project and the truly innovative way in which it speaks into current conversations about what is possible and worth saying together in public about our history and our future.