Monument to Freedom, Justice and Courage

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MONDAY, JUNE 25, 2018

The sacrifice and effort of those who fought for civil rights in Jackson County are being honored with the Monument To Freedom, Justice And Courage in Leon Jordan Memorial Park. The names of the first 100 community leaders memorialized were recognized during a ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday at the monument.

County Legislator Alfred Jordan who was a major force behind the creation of the monument opened the ceremony and greeted guests.

“Anything worth doing is not easy. That it is an uphill climb and that it takes time effort and sacrifice. So it is my distinct honor to honor the time sacrifice and the effort of the first 100 folks that are going up on that wall who had the steep uphill climb to fight for civil rights in Jackson County,” he said.

“I think the timing couldn’t be better for this with the climate that we have in our country. Some of the things that are going on. I would say number one that we do care. Number two that we won’t turn back. The folks on this wall who have fought for civil rights who continue to fight for civil rights and continue to fight for the betterment of all people. Their sacrifice their time and their effort will not be in vain and we will not turn back and we will keep on fighting,” Jordan said.

Bishop James Tindall envisioned the monument and began working on the project when he was a on the Jackson County Legislature.

Tindall, who is honored on the monument, said it, “Honors those who have given their lives to better the African-American community.”

It also honors the memory of Leon Jordan whose statue stands in front of the monument. “Being here today is evidence that his legacy will never die, because the things that he stood for, the organization that he founded and headed, Freedom Incorporated, will live on,” Tindall said. “He guided this community in civil rights, public accommodations, the end of segregation and degradation. His contributions to the welfare of the African-American community are too numerable to mention but they live on. They live on with the Monument To Freedom, Justice And Courage.”

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Ribbon cutting for the Monument To Freedom, Justice And Courage.
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Legislator Alfred Jordan (2nd District)

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Legislator Crystal Williams (2nd District At-Large)

“These people whose names we place on this monument today. Whose background may never be known, their names stand as giants who made a difference and who helped effect change in this community,” he said. “I am truly grateful as I end this message that the dream lives on and that faith can become a reality and that people who made a difference will never be forgotten.”

County Executive, Frank White, Jr., pointed to a great spirit of cooperation by a number of different entities to get the project finished. “That is the spirit I think we are going to need going forward to get more things done here in Jackson County.”

“Jackson County is proud to add this significant monument to this beautiful space,” he said.  “It is a place of pride for or community to unwind, learn and reflect on the contributions these honorees have made to improve our lives. This is the first monument erected to a black person in Kansas City and the first park built for and named for a black person. So to all of those who were responsible in the beginning thank you very much for what you have done to bring this forward for Leon Jordan and also for our community.”

White said he grew up in the neighborhood and is excited about the positive development happening east of Troost. “I am excited we are building on the legacy of Leon Jordan, a man of strength, integrity and courage.”

He also thanked the Legislature, the Commission and the county’s Parks + Rec Department for all of their support and hard work to make the project a reality.

Legislative Chairman Scott Burnett congratulated the honorees. “I have been honored to know many of them. I want to thank them for their civil rights work. Thank them as they continue their struggle and us working together. Thanks to everyone for all that you have done and thanks for this special event today.”

According to Parks + Rec Director Michele Newman Leon Jordan Memorial Pak is one of several neighborhood parks in the Jackson County system.

“Since its inception, Leon Jordan Memorial Park has provided to this surrounding community much needed green space for just shear enjoyment, relaxation and the honor of giving back. The bronze statue that serves as the centerpiece for this park was dedicated to community leader Leon Jordan in 1975 and now with the addition of this amazing new monument this park will continue to play an even greater role honoring our community leaders,” she said.

“It is hard to think of a better way to honor those who forged this path of civil rights here in Jackson County other than by displaying their names and letting people see them,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said.

“We are here today in large part because of those whose names will be forever memorialized in this monument. Now it is our turn to find even more people to step up to do the same type of things to keep those movements moving forward,” he said. “The responsibility to make change and to get better does now rest with those who came before, it rests with those here now and those that we have to influence to take that message forward in the future. It is our responsibility to do whatever we can to make sure that Jackson County and Kansas City are stronger, better and safer and more equitable for those generations to come. That is what the hundred names listed on this monument did for us and that is what we can do for the next generation of leaders.”

Legislator Crystal Williams, second district at-large, expressed her awe of what the community has done and of the people on the wall. “I just want to say congratulations and how incredibly important that this day is.”

“I feel that I am remiss that while we are celebrating the past and what has been accomplished and the people that are working for our future,” she said. “I need to talk about where we are now and I need to say that there is a lot of work to do and in fact I fear that we are going backward and me as an ally of the African American community in Kansas City I have to say that that work really does lie somewhere on us to but more importantly I just want to say I am so honored to be able to say we are here and we want to work. It’s been a really, really rough year this past year and I am shocked by what we are facing. We are ready to move forward. It is an election year so let’s go and fight.”

The monument is constructed of brick and polished concrete blocks. It contains two sections, each eight feet high and 33 feet long, creating a half-circle around the Leon Jordan statue. Each monument segment contains for 500 memorial plaques, for a total 1,000 honorees. Each year for the next 10 years 100 individuals will be selected to be added to the monument as directed by the Jackson County Freedom Wall Commission. The monument was designed by Bruce Wilke, Jackson County Parks + Rec landscape architect, Ajamu K. Webster, founder and CEO of DuBois Consultants of Kansas City and project engineer Nevene Fanous. The project was built by NW Rogers Construction of Blue Springs.

The Leon M. Jordan Memorial Park honors the life and legacy of Leon Jordan, a Kansas City police officer, politician and civil rights leader who co-founded Freedom Inc. Following his murder on July 15, 1970, Jackson County broke ground on the corner property at 31st and Benton for the park on August 5, 1972. Additional land was acquired a year later, leading up to the dedication of the Leon Jordan Memorial Statue on May 17, 1975.

The cast bronze statue is seven feet tall and weighs approximately 700 pounds. It was designed and built by Bobby Scroggins, a student at the Kansas City Art Institute. Today, he is an art professor at the University of Kentucky.

The statue is believed to be the first public monument erected to an African-American leader in the state of Missouri, and also the first public monument to be designed and constructed by an African-American artist in Missouri.

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County Executive Frank White, Jr., Bishop James Tindall, Legislator Alfred Jordan and Legislator Crystal.

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County Executive Frank White, Jr., Legislator Crystal Williams, Parks + Rec Director Michele Newman and the Parks crew who worked on the project.