Immediate Release: October 27, 2021
“No Act of Vandalism Will Ever Tear Down or Destroy Our Respect and Admiration”
Frederick Douglass Statue Reinstalled at Aqueduct Park
(ROCHESTER, NY–) Today, the statue of Frederick Douglass in Aqueduct Park that was the target of vandals on September 15, was re-erected. The site of the statue commemorates the location where Douglass published The North Star and Frederick Douglass Newspaper in the Talman Building adjacent to the park. The statue is one of twelve by artist Olivia Kim that were installed in sites significant to the life and legacy of Douglass around Rochester as part of the “Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass” project in 2018, the bicentennial of his chosen birthdate – and sadly, the third to be vandalized. To date, there have been no arrests made. Anyone with information about this act of desecration, or that of the statue in Maplewood Park in July 2020, should contact the Rochester Police Department.
“No act of vandalism will ever tear down or destroy our respect and admiration for Frederick Douglass,” said Project Co-Director Carvin Eison. “There were those who tried to do so for his entire life—and failed–just as these despicable and cowardly acts have failed. They only serve to prove how valued this great man remains in the city where he once said that he did the most valuable work in his lifetime. Today, once again, we proudly stand for the same values that he did—fairness and equality for all people. And we will continue to do so no matter who challenges us.”
WORDS OF SUPPORT
ASSEMBLYMAN HARRY BRONSON: “It’s hard to believe that we are here again, yet here we are. It is hard to fathom that this is the third time that we have stood together to re-erect one of our treasured statues of Frederick Douglass after a hateful act of vandalism — but our commitment is strong. Our resolve is strong– as was that of our heroes Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Let’s not forget that just ten days after the intolerable vandalism of this statue, the Anthony House was set on fire. Hear me now–hate has no place here, and every time someone perpetrates an act of hate against our heroic civil rights pioneers, national pioneers in the struggle for human rights, we will stand up and speak out. As we face down those who seek to demean us today, we hold steadfast in our commitment to equity and justice,” Bronson concluded.
MAYOR LOVELY WARREN: “Rochester continues to be the place from where Frederick Douglass’ powerful message of freedom and justice is shared across the world. I have been proud to lead the city of Frederick Douglass, where so many of our citizens have strived to ensure his connection to Rochester and the ideals he championed are never forgotten. I am grateful to the work of the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Project, the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and so many others for ensuring his legacy lives on.”
MAYOR-ELECT MALIK EVANS: “The reinstallation of the Frederick Douglass statue is a fitting tribute to a man that reminds all of us to be resilient and to preserve in the face of adversity. Frederick Douglass left an imprint on Rochester and the world and now more than ever it is critical that we recognize and celebrate this trailblazer. I thank the leaders of Re- Energizing the life of Frederick Douglass for their work in keeping Douglass’ legacy alive.”
ERICA MOCK, Executive Director, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives: (Ms. Mock chose to share the words of Douglass on this occasion) “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
GARTH FAGAN, Founder, Artistic Director, President Garth Fagan Dance: Frederick Douglass is a constant inspiration to me in these difficult times. This is why I choreographed ‘The North Star, a dance to honor his many accomplishments including being a family man, journalist and statesman.
DEBORAH HUGHES, President & CEO, the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House: “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass envisioned a world in which justice, inclusion, and equity for each and all would be the standard. Their activism put their lives in danger in their time, so we should not be surprised that their images have the power to incite reaction today. Their fight for a government that serves ALL the people is as inspiring and threatening as it’s ever been.”
REV JULIUS D. JACKSON, JR: Community advocate for preserving the legacy of Frederick Douglass: We can all thrive and grow when we “Turn the Dirt” for those seeds which were considered buried and allow their stories to breath with new life.
The statue that is being re-installed today is not the vandalized statue, but rather one that was located at Rochester Community Media who has generously agreed to share their statue with the community. Together, the statues make up a self-guided tour that has attracted thousands of visitors. Each statue has a QR code that connects visitors to both written and audio interpretations of the history of the site. Tour details can be found at douglasstour.com.
BRONZE STATUE PROJECT
While the fiberglass statues that make up the “No Soil Better” self-guided tour of all the statue sites (www.douglasstour.com) were never intended to be permanent, efforts are underway to place a permanent bronze statue of Frederick Douglass in the newly renamed Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport, one of only six national airports to be named in honor of an African American citizen.
Ken Morris Jr, co-founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives, who is the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington said “A statue dedicated to Frederick Douglass’s memory inside the Rochester airport named in his honor would teach and inspire. It would send a powerful message to young people about the importance of education and literacy. His commanding presence and spirit might provide a sort of balm that could help set the nation on a course toward reconciliation, healing, and unification.
The Douglass family enthusiastically supports installing a bronze statue venerating the Great Abolitionist in the Rochester airport. A memorial erected in his honor would communicate to the world that Rochester and its citizens are committed to advancing freedom, justice, and equality for all, just like Frederick Douglass.”
The bronze statue project is made possible by support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, New York State through the efforts of Assemblyman Harry Bronson and the gifts of generous individuals. Fundraising is still underway. To learn more about how to support the bronze statue project, go to http://www.douglasstour.com/give/
“The Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Project” is a collaborative effort between lead partners Rochester Community Media Center (Carvin Eison, project director and general manager of RCTV, Professor of Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations at SUNY Brockport and member of the board of directors of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives) and Rochester Contemporary Art Center (Bleu Cease, co-project director and executive director of RoCo) in collaboration with the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and a wide-range of community partners who have come together as the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee, in celebration of Douglass’ achievements and legacy, throughout 2018 and beyond. Project Manager Christine Christopher and Emeritus Committee Chair and National Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commissioner Dr. David Anderson round out the committee leadership. Dr. Jose Torre, chair of the History Department at The College at Brockport is the history consultant.
Special thanks to New York State Regional Economic Development Council, Rochester Area Community Foundation, The Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, ESL Foundation and the gifts of individual donors for their support.
Full details about the interactive tour, the history of each site, all the components of the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass bicentennial project and the bronze statue initiative are available at www.DouglassTour.com.
CARVIN EISON’S REMARKS — October 27, 2021
Rochester residents and friends everywhere…. WELCOME!
My name is Carvin Eison, General Manager of Rochester Community Media and Professor of Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations at SUNY Brockport. I am honored to be the co-director of the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass project, along with Bleu Cease of Rochester Contemporary Art Center. In 2018, it was exciting and gratifying to oversee the installation of 12 statues of Frederick Douglass – celebrating his life and legacy – each one created with care and love by hands artist of Olivia Kim who is also here with us today. They are all still standing- …. and that is what WE want to underline today. Although what brings us together is yet another act of vandalism, our admiration of Frederick Douglass can never be overshadowed by acts of hate.
And while it upsets me to be pulled out of a meeting to her yet another of our statues has been desecrated- NO act of vandalism will ever tear down or destroy our respect for Frederick Douglass. There were those who tried to do so while he lived —and failed–just as these despicable and cowardly acts have failed. They only serve to prove how valued this great man remains in the city where he said he did the most valuable work in his lifetime- the pursuit of fairness and equality for all people.
We tell the story of what we value through the placement of monuments, markers and memorials in the public square. Through the placement of monuments, Rochester New York is unique in the nation, because at a time when large portions of the country were erecting monuments to honor the “Lost Cause” of the confederacy and the insurrection against the American government, in Rochester New York, our community chose to recognize the life and accomplishments of the extraordinary Frederick Douglass. We must never forget, our original Frederick Douglass Monument, standing proudly in Highland Park TODAY, created by Stanley Edwards, erected in 1899, was the first monument in American history purposefully placed in the public square, to honor the legacy of a Black Man- Frederick Douglass.
Counter to everything that was happening in our country, then, Rochester mayor George Warner wanted everyone to know that Rochester’s most illustrious citizen was, in fact, a black man- And while many of us literally see our reflection in Mr. Douglass’s image, sadly, there are those who cannot make such a connection and will not allow themselves to be reflected in the life and work of Mr. Douglass –. But, my message to those who seek to destroy what our community holds dearly- my message to those who seek to break us down and set us against each other- my message is this: when you desecrate the image of Frederick Douglass or sully the mural of Daniel Prude or attempt to incinerate the Susan B. Anthony house- you only make us stronger, efforts to weaken our monuments, memorials and markers only make us more determined in our resolve to stand up for what is right –because this is who we are, this is who we have always been and this is who we will always be. In the words of that old spiritual – No weapon formed against us shall prosper…. It won’t work!
CE – Finally, in conclusion…here in the shadow of the Talman building where Douglass published The North Star and The Frederick Douglass Newspaper, it is more than plausible that Mr. Douglass would have stood right here where we are standing at this very moment, more than 120 years ago…. could he have imagined Bill Johnson, the first African American Mayor of Rochester with a 12-year term in office? Could he have imagined mayor Lovely Warren, the second African American mayor and the first woman mayor of Rochester? Could Mr. Douglass have imagined Malik Evans, presumptive and third African American mayor of Rochester? And while he surely would be sad to see many mounting an insurrection against their government as he saw in his lifetime, I think he would be very proud of what has happened here in Rochester.
I want to close with a message to those who vandalized this statue. You thought you could hurt us. You didn’t – in fact, just the opposite. By doing what you did, you gave us yet another opportunity to come together to lift up the legacy of Douglass, yes, an opportunity to prove to the community, the nation and the world that we are a united city. Together we celebrate the things that he stood for, and what we hold dear… equal rights, equal opportunity and equal respect for ALL. ALL.
I want to thank Jim Moorehouse and Karen St. Aubin and most especially Chris Christopher, manager of the Re-Energize the Legacy Frederick Douglass project.…
Carvin Eison is the project co- director of “The Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Project” and general manager of RCTV, Professor of Journalism, Broadcasting and Public Relations at SUNY Brockport and member of the board of directors of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. He is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker whose work has been broadcasted nationally on PBS and screened around the world.