Chisholm Gets More Love In Crown Heights

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CROWN HEIGHTS – City Councilman Robert Cornegy, on Monday, along with the Crown Heights North Association revealed a maquette of a statue of Shirley Chisholm in honor of the 50th Anniversary of her election to the U.S. Congress. This is the second statue of Chisholm announced since Friday.

Artist Sterling Brown Jr. announced details of the project at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. The bronze statue which will stand eight-feet tall atop a 36-inch marble base. The figure will replace a bench already dedicated to the trailblazer at the east end of the Great Lawn in Brower Park. Brown is looking to complete the project by July 2019.

Chisholm is one of four statutes that are part of a $1 million capital funding project. The money will be distributed over the next four years at the cost of $250,000 per statue. Cornegy launched the initiative last year to commemorate influencers within his district which encompasses parts of Crown Heights.

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City Councilman Robert Cornegy and artist Sterling Brown Jr. at the unveiling ceremony of the Shirley Chisholm statue to be erected in Brower Park in Crown Heights.
City Councilman Robert Cornegy and artist Sterling Brown Jr. at the unveiling ceremony of the Shirley Chisholm statue to be erected in Brower Park in Crown Heights.

The councilman said the project was delayed after the unexpected death of William “Bill” Howard, the president of the West Indian Parade who first worked with the councilman on the statue.

“I wanted to make sure our legacy was sealed in this symbolic way,” said Cornegy in response to what he called the negative aspects of gentrification. “This statue is part of a larger effort in this community.”

Chisholm was born in Bedford Stuyvesant, grew up in Brownsville and lived, for many years, in Crown Heights at 1094 Prospect Pl. The block, now landmarked, was named one of two “Super Blocks” in the 1960s and received a revitalization package of trees and street furniture then.

Crown Heights resident Adelaide Miller, a neighbor of the late U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.
Crown Heights resident Adelaide Miller, a neighbor of the late U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.

Adelaide Miller, who still lives on the block, remembers organizing with Chisholm.

“We would try to get the black people together,” said Miller, now 96. “At the time there were mostly white people in the area but it was nice to have a community of different people.”

A true Brooklynite, the lawmaker attended what is now known as Boys and Girls H.S. in Bedford Stuyvesant. She earned a B.A. at Brooklyn College and went on to study at Columbia University earning an M.A. from the Teacher’s College. In 1956, she worked as an educational consultant for the Division of Day Care until she was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1964. Chisholm would later, in 1968, become the first African American woman to win a U.S. congressional seat.

Rendering of the Shirley Chisholm statue to be erected in Crown Heights’ Brower Park.

This is the second announcement of a statue to commemorate Chisholm within a week.  First Lady Shirley McCray announced, on Friday, November 30, the city would honor Chisholm with a statue in her likeness. The city has not chosen an artist for the project as yet but the final statue will stand at the Parkside entrance of Prospect Park.

Newly-elected Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries and other congressional delegates honored Chisholm on November 5 with a bill to award the legend a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal. There is also a movie about the lawmaker in the making.

“She was a friend to many,” said Annette Robinson who also attended the unveiling on Monday morning.

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