THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2018
Honoring those who have made or are making significant contributions to the civil rights movement in Jackson County is the motivation behind a new memorial being constructed at Leon Jordan Park.
County, city and community leaders gathered Wednesday to break ground on the “Monument to Freedom, Justice and Courage”.
Jackson County Executive, Frank White, Jr. welcomed visitors to the park and said “I am excited about this positive development project east of Troost to recognize those who have worked hard to bring progress to our community. People who embody the spirit of Leon Jordan.”
“Freedom isn’t free,” he continued. “The civil rights movement saw blacks and whites fighting for people of color to be treated equally. They marched, boycotted and protested. Many lost their lives doing so. Now, here we are almost 70 years later fighting for the same right to be free. Black men walk down the street, afraid when they are pulled over and can’t even sit in a Starbucks without being deemed a threat.”
“No matter your race, gender or economic status, we have to fight this injustice together with courage. That’s why this monument is important,” he said. “We must do better and the names that will be placed on this wall will be examples for all of us to follow.”
While talking about the design of the monument, Alfred Jordan (Jackson County Legislator, Second District), said, “I am so happy that we are putting this monument to freedom and justice and courage here. If you think about it, if it was a person it would be like it is wrapping its arms around Leon Jordan.”
“In 2009, President Obama gave a speech and he said that he stands on the shoulders of giants. Well, we are recognizing our giants right here in Jackson County,” he said. “I think the timing is especially appropriate for some of the divisiveness as we have coming down from the top of our country seeking to divide us when it took all of us to get to where we are and we cannot turn back now.”
Bishop James Tindall, who started working on the project four years ago when he served on the Jackson County Legislature, said his “heart is very happy and joyful at this occasion.”
Tindall continued, “We wanted to make sure that the dream and the work of Leon Jordan would never be forgotten. All of the things he and Bruce Watkins and others brought forth through Freedom Incorporated made a great difference in this community. Those people’s names will be enshrined in this monument, but there are so many others who have made significant contributions to our community. Those names have never been mentioned. Now we have an outlet by which we will be able to put up a little plaque to say this individual walked this way and made a difference for their community. Those who have been forgotten, we will say that in Jackson County they will never be forgotten.”
“There are people from all over the country who stop here at this statue to see what Leon Jordan and Bruce Watkins did, but we are going to do better. We are going to put up a monument, but we could do better. We don’t have to be satisfied with just a monument, just a statue. We don’t have to be satisfied with the way things look in our community. We can make a difference and we can make a change. So as we begin today, let us put in our minds and in our spirits and in our hearts that we are going to make that change together collaboratively with the city, the county, and the state and the federal government if necessary so let’s come together and stay together,” Tindall said.
The “Monument to Freedom, Justice and Courage” will be constructed of brick and polished concrete blocks. It will contain two sections, each eight feet high and 33 feet long, creating a half-circle around the Leon Jordan statue.
Each monument segment will contain space for 500 memorial plaques, for a total of 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, which was established in 2014.
Community members are encouraged to submit nominations based on eligibility and criteria requirements set by the commission. The nomination deadline for the first 100 inductees is Thursday, May 3 at 4:30 p.m. Additional submission details and nomination forms can be found on the Jackson County website. http://www.jacksongov.org/996/Monument-Recognition-Criteria
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 will be 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.