We need “the courage to confront and confess the history that has made us." –Leonard Pitts, columnist
In the spirit of this call to action, a team from the UMass Center for Design Engagement (CD*E) was invited by the Richmond-based Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project to conduct a series of community meetings, discussions, and presentations on how to advance a community-generated design proposal that commemorates and revitalizes Shockoe Bottom.
After an intense period of listening, discussing, and distilling, the CD*E team presented a preliminary design proposal at Richmond’s new Black History Museum and Cultural Center in front of a standing-room only crowd.
Now the team has polished that presentation and made it available online.
As conveyed at the presentation, the design proposal for a Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park seeks to recognize and reinvigorate this landscape as a site of conscience, a sacred site, and a place that can help build economic opportunity for all Richmonders.
Elements of their vision include creating a focal point for the district called Shockoe Square that would serve as a new gateway to Shockoe Bottom’s memorial sites and provide space for interpretation, outdoor films, music and drama performances, and a visually and symbolically striking “grove of light” installation.
Other features include a digital interpretive wall that would be a dynamic canvas for a variety of works, including art, films, and the names of the enslaved; and, a memorial landscape at the African Burial Ground that would incorporate Shockoe Creek and an elevated footpath to convey respect and provoke reflection in this sacred place.
In the educational and economic development arena, the team suggested local universities unite to form a new Center for Building Arts and Sustainable Development to help young people and formerly incarcerated individuals gain vocational skills. Recommendations also include creating a community benefit fund and a land trust to ensure that historic preservation work, educational investment, and affordable housing occur alongside commercial development.