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Boston Street Artist Offers Vision For Future Of Columbus Statue

Local Artist Cedric Douglas presents a forward-looking vision for memorials and monuments in Boston and across the Country

Artist Cedric “Vise 1” Douglas presents a forward-looking vision for the future of memorials and monuments in the United States with his newest project “The People’s Memorial Project,” a pop-up public video projection installation, which addresses the current debate about public monuments and their controversial status.

In the North End of Boston, MA stands an empty plinth that formerly held a marble statue of Christopher Columbus, which was defaced by protesters and removed by the city. This empty pedestal has become the foundation for Cedric’s latest artwork, bringing new ideas into one of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods.

Photo by Aram Boghosian

With so many statues and monuments being forcibly removed around the country, Cedric’s artwork provides an answer to the question “What’s next.”


On Monday, October 12th our work calendars may say “Columbus Day” while our children’s school calendars say “Indiginous Peoples’ Day”, Douglas’s artwork gives us a visual representation of this National crossroads.

In recent months, people across the United States and around the world have taken to the streets in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism, demanding justice reform and racial equality. “The People’s Memorial Project” intends to respond to this outward cry by offering a productive dialogue.

“How can we create a monument that is actually going to uplift the community? Wouldn’t it be amazing if people could nominate people from their neighborhood? A monument that could constantly change and tell a real truth, telling a real history to that community?” says Douglas.

“The intent of this project is to create a glimpse into the future, by replacing an antiquated view of history with a vision of tomorrow where all people who have contributed to the growth and prosperity of the local community and the broader nation, are recognized and honored” says Douglas.

Photo by Aram Boghosian

Choosing which figures, both historic and contemporary, would be represented was an in-depth process. He created a wide-reaching informal poll, conducted over the course of several weeks, to gather nominees.

He appealed to a wide cross-section of the ALAANA+ community which then provided a list of over 150 notable and accomplished local figures which the artist and his team narrowed down to eight selected individuals on the basis of three criteria.

They needed to be local to Boston or the broader region, recognized for their accomplishments or shining a light on a local movement, and represent a group of people who have been historically underrepresented or overlooked in American monuments or memorials.

For this inaugural event, the selected persons included Mel King, Elma Lewis, Keith “Guru” Elam, Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Frieda Garcia. As well as Chief Massasoit, Crispus Attucks and Jessie “Little Doe” Baird three Indiginous Americans, one historic and one contemporary, known
for standing up for communities. Crispus Attucks was a sailor of African and Natick Tribe descent who in 1770, was the first person killed in a street brawl that would later be known as The Boston Massacre, a conflict that sparked the American Revolution.

Jessie “Little Doe” Baird is a contemporary community organizer who has been working to revive the long-silent Wôpanâak language and restore her Native American community’s cultural heritage. She is Co-Founder of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, and recipient of a 2010 Macarthur “Genius” Award and in September 2020 recipient of the Massachusetts Governor’sAwards in the Humanities.

Cedric’s artwork provides an opportunity to rethink whom we, as a society, are choosing to memorialize in the form of public statues and monuments. “The People’s Memorial Project” is more than an artwork; it is a campaign to rethink the future of memorials and monuments on the broadest scale. This concept is not just for the Christopher Columbus site, but for all locations, it is a proposal for a better process for nomination and giving tribute to the individuals who make our community and our world a better place.

Photo by Aram Boghosian

With this productive and forward-looking artwork and the subsequent nomination campaign, Douglas and his team hope to ignite a nation-wide movement of public monuments that are for the people and by the people, starting with in Christopher Columbus park in the North End of Boston.

Credits

Artist: Cedric “Vise 1” Douglas – cedricdouglasdesign@gmail.com
Producer: Vanessa Till Hooper / Studio HHH: studiohhh.comvanessa@studiohhh.com 
Producer: Jeff Grantz: ILLUMINUS Boston, illuminusboston.org, ​​jeffgrantz@gmail.com 
Project Manager: Teresita Cochran, sitacochran@gmail.com
Photographer: Aram ​Boghosian

#thepeoplesmemorialproject


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Creative North Shore is having ongoing discussion of Accessibility and Disability Awareness leading up to the International Day of Disabled Persons on December 3 and the hopeful introduction of a Disability Parade in 2021. If this is a topic you are interested, have thoughtful story ideas, or know of an organization to add to the list below please reach out to joeyphoenix@creativecollectivema.com

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