by Ryan Maxwell
The Mayor’s Office recently announced that the city will erect a monument honoring the late Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the US Congress, some time in 2020 at the Parkside entrance to Prospect Park. The Chisholm statue will be erected as a part of a larger initiative by the city to increase diversity in monuments around New York.
First Lady Chirlane McCray’s She Built NYC Initiative was launched in partnership with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen in the summer of 2018. According to women.nyc, the project’s goal is to “commission public monuments honoring the women who have made New York City the most dynamic place on the globe.”
Shirley Chisholm was born in Bed-Stuy and served from 1969 to 1983 in the United States Congress, representing New York’s 12th congressional district, including parts of Manhattan and Greenpoint. Prior to that, she became the second African American elected to the New York State Legislature. In 1972, she was the first female to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. To say the least, Chisholm was a trailblazer.
“She came in fourth place out of 13 candidates, all white males, with two assassination attempts on her life,” says New York City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo. “Now that’s a leadership that we have not seen or known in a very long time. She has inspired dozen–thousands–of women to run for office and to hold that power.”
But how do Ditmas Park’s residents feel about this new addition to the community?
Some people interviewed by The Examiner in Ditmas Park didn’t actually know who Shirley Chisholm was. However, they still think a monument to her would be a step in the right direction for the community. The addition of a Chisholm statue would add diversity to Brooklyn’s landscape, and Ditmas Park residents seem to love that.
“It is important that we celebrate the excellence of colored people, especially women. I can’t even presume how much tenacity she must have but I am proud to call her a representative of our society and youth,” says Somaiya Ahmed, 15 years old.
Other Brooklynites have their own ideas about monuments they feel should come to Ditmas Park.
Anjali Satyabhashak, who has lived in Ditmas Park her whole life, agrees that a Shirley Chisholm statue is an honor but feels that more powerful women of color should come to the neighborhood. Satyabhashak says she wants to see a statue of Rosa Parks in the area because “she inspired other women of color [to believe] that it’s okay to stand up for your freedom.”
Ahmed would love to see Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girls education rights activist, in stone in her neighborhood. “I live in a predominately Muslim environment and it would be enchanting to see a fellow Muslim being praised. Not only is she a Muslim but she is a young woman who emphasizes the importance of education, a privilege many take for granted. She is brave, brilliant and a beautiful symbol of the youth today–hope for the future,” Ahmed said.
“I think Barack Obama should have a statue,” said Shade Adetula, a student at Brooklyn College Academy’ “History has come a long way. Back in the old days, a black president was never a thought in anyone’s mind. Our first black president is someone who we all love. That is a groundbreaking achievement.”
The She Built NYC initiative allowed women around the city to submit names for monuments they thought should be in local parks. The list is 13 pages long including over 300 different nominees. The submissions ranged from Eleanor Roosevelt to “the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Women.”
On the other hand, some Brooklynites have contrasting ideas about statues in their city.
“I honestly have no clue who really deserves a whole statue in Brooklyn,” says Cheran Kelly, 23 years old. “Most likely a very special black woman. They don’t get recognized in America’s history and never are reflected in the way history is told.
“A statue will not do anything for the community,” Amos Lee asserted. “Organizations and community centers and parks should be opened and run in their honor–something that will benefit what they stood for and the communities that need it.”
To find out more about the She Built NYC Initiative visit https://women.nyc/she-built-nyc/ or go to https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dcla/publicart/shebuiltnyc.page