Three separate events are scheduled to take place around the ‘Emancipation Monument’ in Lincoln Park, all set to begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 26. Those events include a panel-style discussion, a rally, and a community history rally. At least one organizer has vowed that the event will go one even as the National Park Service (NPS) erected fencing around both the ‘Emancipation Monument’ and the statue of Mary McLeod Bethune, which faces it across the park.
The groups represent different positions on the statue, drawing attention to different interpretations and uses for the monument. One event focuses on the historical significance and context. Another calls for community discussion on the monument. Still another has vowed on a previous occasion to pull it down.
The three groups say they have co-ordinated. Their differing views will meet in front of the now-enclosed Emancipaton monument Friday evening under the watchful eye of increased police presence.
Re-enactments, Discussion and A Rally
The Freedom Neighborhood, an organization that describes itself as ‘a youth-led revolution for our generation,’ will speak at 6 p.m., Friday, June 26, working with Moechella and candidate for At-Large Council Marcus Goodwin. A rally will follow at which the group will go over their demands, said The Freedom Neighborhood Founder Glenn Foster.
Foster will speak as part of a discussion organized by former ANC 6A Commissioner Gloria Nauden. She said she created the panel to ensure there was a community discussion about the monument so that all perspectives could be heard. Participants, including Foster and Candidate for At-Large Council Marcus Goodwin, who has advocated for a legal removal of the statue, have agreed to a ensure an atmosphere of communication and understanding.
Nauden said she supports the replacement of the statue, but wants to ensure that all perspectives are heard. “A lot of us are involved in social justice issues and related matters, but none of us knows everything,” she said. “We want to ensure the diversity of views are heard.”
Nauden said that while all three groups are not working together, they have co-ordinated their events.
Community History Rally
A coalition of organizations dedicated to the history of Frederick Douglass are also hosting a Community History Rally beginning at 6 p.m. Friday. According to the online description, the history rally will include presentations from historians, Douglass reenactors, and organizations such as the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia.
Nathan Richardson is a well-known Frederick Douglass reenactor. He says his role at the event is to dramatize Douglass on the day the statue was dedicated in 1876, when the posture of the black man was already contraversial, viewed as too deferential. “What Douglass was able to do was to bring clarity to the relationship between himself and Abraham Lincoln, and between Abraham Lincoln and black people in a single space,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. Bring everyone to a point where they understand the context of history and the monument.”
‘A Groundswell of Support’
Candidate for At-Large Council Marcus Goodwin will be part of all three events, speaking during the panel discussion, attending the event by the Douglassonians and noted by The Freedom Neighborhood as a collaborator in the rally. Goodwin brought increased attention to the issue, recently starting a petition for the removal of the monument which has amassed more than 5,000 signatures, and, he said, has resulted in a groundswell of support from people who feel the same way.
“After 144 years, the current climate feels like a good time to revisit the representation of African-Americans in public space,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin is clear that while he respects the passion of youth such as that behind calls from The Freedom Neighborhood to tear down the statue, his intent is to follow the legislative process recently initiated by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-D). He suggests that the monument be removed to a museum such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Goodwin said he would like to see the monument be replaced by a sculpture of an African American woman. “The sculpture of Mary McLeod Bethune is the only representation of an African American woman in DC,” he said. “In this era, it’s time to get more African-Americans, and more women, represented in public space.”