Two state African-American projects yearn for funding

New park design concept art by Phil Freelon- The North Carolina Freedom Park will honor the African-American experience and struggle for freedom in North Carolina.

Two state African-American projects yearn for funding
July 27
04:00 2017

Last March, when Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, submitted his proposed state budget, he appropriated $200,000 for “Freedom Monument Planning,” to provide, “…one-time funding for the African American Heritage Commission to complete the planning, construction, and related costs of the African American Monument on the southeast corner of the State Capitol grounds.”

Republican legislative budget-writers ignored the governor’s proposed appropriation, however, and now the Freedom Monument project, planning for which began over two years ago under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, is officially idle, unless the GOP has a sudden, yet unexpected, change of heart.

But the Freedom Monument is not the only long-term project honoring African- American contributions to the state’s history that Republican leadership reportedly turned their backs on.

“Freedom Park,” also planned for near the state Capitol, is a creature of the North Carolina Freedom Project, a registered IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable corporation.

Touted as “the public park celebrating freedom and the African American experience,” the planned park is slated to be developed on one acre of land between the state Legislative Building and the Governor’s Mansion on the corner of Lane and Wilmington streets in Raleigh.

With initial funding starting in 2002 from the Paul Green Foundation, named after the famed Pulitzer Prize-winning author and playwright, the private effort steadily attracted donors who shared the vision of a place reflecting the deep roots of black contributions to the state both in the past, and toward the future.

It attracted august leadership like historian Dr. John Hope Franklin, and famed civil rights attorney and educator Julius Chambers.

In 2004, the project, then known as the “Freedom Monument Project,” received its nonprofit status.

In 2008 -10, under the leadership of then state Rep. Alma Adams (D-Guilford), the Democrat-led legislature  awarded a $197,500 grant for planning and development. Another $100,000 was donated by Paul Green Jr. and his wife, followed by various corporate donations.

Professional fundraisers were hired to develop a strategy, with the ultimate goal of a $5 million capital campaign.

In 2015-16, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation helped to redesign the original concept for what was now known as the “Freedom Park,” bringing onboard famed architect Phil Freelon (known for designing the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.). Freelon’s new design was unveiled in December 2016.

Led by a Board of Directors and an Advisory Board, the Freedom Park is slated for completion by 2020, assuming its $5 million fundraising goal is met. By all accounts, however, that effort has stalled.

Dr. Goldie Frinks Wells of Greensboro is the co-chair of the project’s Board of Directors. She confirmed Tuesday that private fundraising for the park has hit a ditch.

“We’re really trying to get a big donor to get the ball rolling for us,” she said, indicating that meetings with large corporations are ongoing. “We’re moving forward.”

But Dr. Wells also confirmed that two weeks before the just approved state budget was passed in June, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore met with representatives of the Freedom Park project, was very welcoming and “sounded so hopeful” about their request for state budget funding.

But in the end, Dr. Wells says, they got nothing.

“We were left out completely,” she said.

Civil rights activist Linda Sutton of Winston-Salem is a former member of the Freedom Park Advisory Committee. She noted how Republicans appropriated $5 million from the latest budget for the new Civil War Center in Fayetteville, and not a dime to the Freedom Monument, or neither, apparently, the Freedom Park project.

“I guess that was more important,” Sutton quipped.

About Author

Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors