Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Freedom Corner: a Guided Tour

James Ray Polk, Architect --- double-click for higher resolution

Foot-Soldier's Fountain greets the new visitor at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and J.C. Killingsworth Avenue as a tribute to the "foot-soldiers" of the civil rights movement. The leaders and organizers may have more familiar names, but daily small acts of faith, support, and personal sacrifice by millions of people gave the movement its momentum.

Enter the memorial and look to your right. You'll see a procession of 12 kiosks - or "Pillars" - each representing an individual pillar of strength in the struggle for civil rights in Hattiesburg. Mounted on each kiosk is an interpretive painting of each pillar, and viewers may access oral histories of each individual. As you walk along, you'll notice that the path is uphill, a metaphor for the struggle.

Then there's the Brick Wall. In one of our programming sessions, an eloquent elderly woman who lived through the civil rights era said "No matter what we did, they just kept putting up brick walls. Every time we'd get past one, they'd put up another. That brick wall just kept getting higher and higher." Notice the brick wall as it grows higher and higher along the procession of pillars until, after the 12th pillar, the wall turns and opens - roughly, with bricks falling away - blown open by a mighty wind as a portal to "the other side."

And on the other side, a joyous explosion of sights and sounds. In an open-air room, designed with sound-bouncing concave concrete walls for acoustic exuberance, the sound of celebratory freedom songs fill the space along with a circular mural of larger than life-size "pillars of the movement."

In the center of the room, you'll find a reflective sphere. As you are feasting on the jubilant sounds of gospel choirs, you'll find yourself gazing into that sphere, and you'll see the leaders of the civil rights movement reflected side by side in the background. But in the foreground, undeniably - it's you.

I'm calling this space "Reflections of Freedom."

To find out more about Freedom Corner, go to the new official website: JCKFreedomCorner.com. We'll soon have instructions on how you can make a tax-deductible donation to this project. Yes, you can be a part of manifesting J. C. Killingsworth Freedom Corner.