Just before the fundraising campaign started Friday, Mayor Eddie A. Perez reached into his pocket, pulled out his billfold, and gave city council Majority Leader rJo Winch a nudge.
"Here's a dollar," he told her, handing her a bill. "I'm going to give the first dollar. You give the second."
That means there's only $249,998 left to be raised in the effort to build statues memorializing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
Organizers announced plans Friday to raise the money and build the statues on the former site of a monument to the city's Northwest residents who served in World War II. The monument that once stood at Aaron Fien Square at the Woodland Street entrance to Keney Park was dedicated in 1944. It was taken down in 1955 for repairs, and apparently never returned.
Announcing the fundraising effort that links some of the city's biggest developers with some of its smallest residents — the students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School — Perez said Friday that money to build these statues should materialize because the desire to have them built comes from the community.
"When you come here 44 years from now or 100 years from now, you can say you were part of history," Perez said.
Students from the elementary school said they were eager to participate.
"I think it's going to be nice to clean up around here," said fifth-grader Chyquan Williams.
"I think it would be nice to get a statue because it represents Martin Luther King and the school," said fourth-grader Raychel Morris.
"And it represents how much he did and how much the world has changed," Dymonic Tann said.
The effort is organized by city residents and Krish and Beayanka Naraine. They say partners include the city, developers like Northland Investment Corp. and C&R Development, state elected officials, and more.
"There needs to be positive indicators in the city," said Krish Naraine, explaining his vision for two separate statues that are somehow linked. "With all the shootings going on in the city, [young people] need to look up and see some kind of peace symbol. It may not stop a shooting, but at least the community is moving in the right direction."
King, who died in April 1968, frequently gave speeches in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Westport, Hamden and Middletown, according to Karyl Evans, a Southern Connecticut State University professor and filmmaker who has produced a documentary about King's work in the state. As a teenager, King came north from his native Atlanta and worked summers as a laborer in Connecticut's tobacco fields.
Donations for the planned statues can be sent to the King Monument Fund, Webster Bank, 410 Homestead Ave., Hartford, CT 06112.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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