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Celebrating Douglass legacy

Local News

The legacy of Rochester resident and famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass will be celebrated with a year long tribute in Rochester, Monroe County and beyond.

This year, 2018, marks the bicentennial of Douglass’ recognized birth year. His birthday is celebrated on February 14 each year. Helping spearhead the local effort to illuminate Douglass’ life and its ongoing impact are Carvin Eison of the Rochester Community Media Center and Bleu Cease of the Rochester Contemporary Art Center.

Eison is the Project Director and General Manager and Cease the Executive Director of the year long initiative called “Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass.” The two discussed the ambitious undertaking and some of what’s planned Monday during News 8 at Noon.

“It’s remarkably important, and we thank you for having us,” said Eison. “This man is one of the greatest citizens that Rochester ever produced. To recognize that over the next year, we’re planning several large-scale events, but I’ll just hit two of them, and Bleu can fill in. One is we want to bring our community together. That’s number one. This is what he did, and this is what we’re trying to replicate. Number two, by way of doing that, there’s a monument in Highland Park — it’s the first monument erected to a black man in American history — for Frederick Douglass. It’s in Highland Park. We plan to replicate that monument, and place it all over the community of Rochester, Monroe County, and possibly around the country, to talk about the legacy of Frederick Douglass, both as a historical figure and as a contemporary figure.”

This is a community collaboration. “Carvin and I and RoCo and RCTV have a history of working together on some wonderful projects over the years,” noted Cease. “Beginning February 2 — the first Friday — we’ll open an exhibition called ‘No Soil Better,’ where eleven artists are making new works inspired by Douglass; looking at his legacy. A couple of them, specifically, will be looking at the monument that Carvin mentioned. In a sense, these artists are contemporary artists. They’re looking at Douglass, and they’re making and giving us contemporary monuments to reconsider and honor this incredible man.”

The famed monument of Douglass which currently stands in Highland Park will be moving this year. “The monument has a history of moving,” explained Eison. “It was first downtown by the original train station. Then several years later, it was moved to its present location, which is in Highland Bowl, but down in the bowl where no one can see it. We’re very pleased to announce — this is public information – the county is moving the monument from its present location, to the corner of South Avenue and Robinson Drive, where it will be significantly more visible, well lit with seating, etcetera. This is something that we’re really excited about, because after all, it’s Frederick Douglass.”

To learn more about the ways in which Douglass will be celebrated throughout 2018, visit the City of Rochester website, click here.

To learn more about ‘No Soil Better,’ visit the Rochester Contemporary Art Center website, click here.

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