By: Isaiah Robinson
HOUSTON — It was a special moment for many African Americans in Houston six years ago when the Martin Luther King Jr. statue was unveiled at MacGregor Park, with more than 3,000 people turning out to witness the event.
The Black Heritage Society’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ovide Duncantell’s mission of recognizing, sustaining and keeping Dr. King’s “Legacy” and “Dream” alive forever blossomed into fruition.
Since that historic day, the fourth largest city in the U.S. has only three MLK statues.
Even then, those who were a part of the process of getting the MLK statues commissioned had to fight through adversity to make it a reality.
The first statue resides in Sunnyside and was acquired in 1981; it is unknown who commissioned the bronze bust.
Humanitarian and former Houston city council member, Ada Edwards, raised $40,000 to have the second MLK statue commissioned in Hermann Park. It was unveiled in 2007.
“It struck me the wrong way that [those in jurisdiction over Hermann Park at the time] didn’t want a statue of Dr. King. I continued to fight to make sure that there was a notable black figure in Houston,” Edwards said.
Dr. Ben Hall, 2013 Mayoral candidate, attorney and advisory board member of the Martin Luther King Memorial Project-Houston, and his wife, Saundra Hall, paid for the MLK statue to be placed in MacGregor Park.
“Mr. Duncantell insisted—no, DEMANDED—that the statue be as authentic to Dr. King’s image and likeness as possible, Hall said. “We were honored to donate the $64,000 needed to ensure Dr. King’s statue would reflect the vision Mr. Duncantell had for the statue—and we think we did just that.”
Over the last few years, many have been on a joint mission to remove the bones of racist skeletons from the Lone Star State’s closet…slowly.
In 2016, the Houston Independent School District spent $1.2 million to rename schools that bore the names of Confederate leaders, and replaced them with those of local leaders.
Even though there have been many people over the years who’ve sought to eradicate any trace of the Confederacy in Houston – whether it was a statue, street name or public space – the issue of the lack of African American statues in Houston remains.
We’ve heard the statement, “We’ve come very far from where we’ve been,” but the credibility of this statement stands on shaky foundations.
Progress is being made, but the speed of the progression raises an eyebrow to some with only three monuments of our people being honored, compared to the numerous Confederate public spaces, street names and monuments in the city.
If we have come a long way from where we were before in the past; then, it is imperative to see additional monuments honoring our African American figures in the Space City for our youth to learn about the significance of African American pioneers and the roads they paved for us to walk on.
“A statute concretizes and brings more value to the spirit of our leaders what they’ve done for us,” Edwards said.