New York City is getting a new monument dedicated to the late pioneering Brooklyn congresswoman Shirley Chisholm following the approval on Monday, July 17, of a sculpture designed by artists Olalekan Jeyifous and Amanda Williams.
The piece is part of the city’s new She Built NYC initiative, a series of public art commissions created under the de Blasio administration that will install monuments to historic trailblazers in every borough over a proposed four-year timeline.
A previously-approved version of the monument, which will be the first ever to depict a woman in Brooklyn, was delayed through the pandemic and will now restart using a slightly refined design featuring a gestalt of imagery that combines Chisholm’s silhouette and the U.S. Capitol Building dome into one 32-foot latticed steel form. The artists say this combination “symbolizes how she disrupted the perception of who has the right to occupy such institutions and to be an embodiment for democracy.”
Born and raised in Bed-Stuy, Chisholm went on to become the first Black woman ever to seek a Presidential nomination in 1972 while continuously advocating for her district and the city during her seven-term tenure in Congress. At the time of her death in 2005, she was considered a paragon of various civil rights causes, despite the shadow of progressive male contemporaries, including George McGovern and Martin Luther King, Jr., whose advocacy led them to nationwide prominence.
To this end, the artists said: “This trailblazing woman was not diminutive and this monument reflects how Chisholm’s collaborative ideals were larger than herself.”
“This administration is committed to working to tell a more complete story surrounding the trailblazing women who have shaped our city, and we are ready to get more of these projects back underway,” Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Laurie Cumbo added finally.
The monument to Chisholm will be followed by others to Billie Holiday, Marsha P. Johnson, and four other women.
Written by Josh Niland