CHICAGO — The city says it will finally build a long-promised memorial for survivors of police torture.
Mayor Brandon Johnson announced on Juneteenth the city will use a $6.8 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to build eight public monuments intended to “memorialize events, people and groups that historically have been excluded or underrepresented,” according to a news release.
The Chicago Torture Justice Memorial — to be located on the city’s South Side — will honor survivors of torture carried out by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his “Midnight Crew.”
The city paid a first-of-its-kind $5.5 million reparations package to Burge survivors in 2015, but has since delayed its promise to allocate funds for the memorial, despite continued organizing around the cause by survivors and community members.
The new funding is the largest award yet from the Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project, $250 million in private donations to “reimagine and rebuild commemorative spaces and transform the way history is told in the United States,” according to the news release.
The final selection of new Chicago monuments comes after an August 2022 report by the Chicago Monuments Project Advisory Committee, a collaboration between city agencies to recruit artists for “a larger reckoning with monuments that symbolize outdated values,” according to the news release.
“Chicago’s monuments and memorials are more than just public art — they speak directly to the values, history and vision of our great city,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’m grateful for the Mellon Foundation’s support of the Chicago Monuments Project and the creation of cultural works around labor, civil rights, racial justice and other areas that represent our diversity, honor our history and tell our story.”
The monuments are at various stages of planning and development, according to the news release. The list of upcoming monuments is below:
- Chicago Torture Justice Memorial, by artist Patricia Nguyen and architectural designer John Lee
- George Washington Monument Intervention, a new public art project by renowned Chicago artist Amanda Williams
- A Long Walk Home (ALWH), “#SayHerName: The Rekia Boyd Monument Project”
- Mother Jones, in partnership with the Mother Jones Heritage Project (MJHP), a commission to honor Mother Jones’s important contributions to labor history
- Mahalia Jackson monument, by artist Gerald Griffin, spearheaded by the Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI)
- Pilsen Latina Histories, by lead artist Diana Solis, scholars from the University of Illinois, Pilsen Arts & Community House staff, and additional artists and community groups in Pilsen
- Chicago Race Riots of 1919 Commemoration Project, designed and produced in partnership with youth artists at Firebird Community Arts’ Project FIRE
- Early Chicago, a series of monuments that explore the settling of Chicago, including those to Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable and Kitihawa, and projects which amplify Native American stories
The city’s monument commission was created in 2020 after a clash between police and protesters at Grant Park’s Christopher Columbus statue, which was ultimately removed,
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