Organizers unveil plans for new African American memorial park in Walker County

Contributed Photo / A fundraising campaign for the Walker County African American Memorial Park was recently begun, to be located on Oak and West Villanow streets in LaFayette, Ga.
Contributed Photo / A fundraising campaign for the Walker County African American Memorial Park was recently begun, to be located on Oak and West Villanow streets in LaFayette, Ga.

Building on the opening of the Walker County African American Museum in December, organizers have released plans for a Walker County African American memorial park near the museum in LaFayette, Georgia.

The park will feature six or seven granite monuments honoring prominent Walker County African Americans, as well as trees, picnic tables, an American flag, green space and plantings, organizers say. They said the park, on West Villanow and Oak streets, will open when $300,000 needed to build the park is raised.

"We want all of Walker County to come enjoy it, and while they're enjoying it, maybe learn a little more history about Walker County beyond the Confederate era," according to Beverly Foster, founder and president of the Walker County African American Historical and Alumni Association.

Founded in 2002, the association is organizing both Walker County's African American museum and park.

In a phone call, Foster said one of her group's goals is to tell Walker County's more recent history because the majority of what's commemorated in the county is focused on Civil War history.

"We have more history in Walker County than slavery," Foster said. "We have 160 years of not being slaves."

The monuments are envisioned to highlight African American veterans, teachers, community organizers and other prominent residents, and the park will have a raised podium where people can tell their own story or host meetings, Foster said.

Memorial bricks and pavers are being sold to raise money for the park, Foster said, and the association is hosting a gospel jubilee June 25 at LaFayette First Baptist Church as part of the fundraising campaign, Foster said.

Plans for the park were designed by Corrin Breeding, an architect and environmental designer who is from Georgia and lives in Texas.

The association is also sponsoring a mural project for the museum at 309 N. Main St., and it's creating a buzz in town, Foster said.

One mural allows visitors to stand in front of bee wings for photographs, and another will include portraits of prominent Walker County African Americans.

A resident of Ooltewah, artist Nathan Stepney said it's an honor to be painting the museum's murals. He said in a phone interview that the mural should be completed by the end of the month.

"Murals add a different light and brightness to the community," Stepney said.

Stepney said public art is important because of its accessibility — rather than inside a museum — and how it reflects on the community's values.

While painting, many people have stopped by to give him words of encouragement, he said. Stepney also expressed gratitude because the museum and park are opening up a dialogue about the county's history.

Contact Andrew Wilkins at awilkins@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

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