Finding Shirley Chisholm’s legacy across New York state
While a statue of the trailblazing member of Congress planned for Prospect Park in Brooklyn has been delayed and another has been in the works in Buffalo, her name has at least shown up in a number of places to honor her.
The late Shirley Chisholm still hasn’t gotten her proper due. More than four years after plans for a statue of the trailblazing member of Congress was announced, there’s no statue in Brooklyn.
A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs told City & State that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the design process. That has now been restarted, and a public presentation of the final design for the Chisholm statue is expected later this year. (After the statue was initially promised to be completed by the end of 2020.)
So sometime in the coming years, Chisholm will be represented near the Parkside entrance to Prospect Park. There’s also a plan to build a statue of Chisholm at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, where she’s buried. And Rep. Yvette Clarke introduced a bill to put a statue of Chisholm in the U.S. Capitol, where there’s already a painting of her.
Chisholm herself knew the power of statues. Her first bill as a member of Congress funded a statue of civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune in Washington, D.C.’s, Lincoln Park. Unveiled in 1974, it was the first monument to a Black person on public land in the nation’s capital.
As more memorials are planned for Chisholm, the list of physical dedications around her old home borough of Brooklyn has grown quite a bit in recent years, amid a growing awareness of how rare it has been to honor women, and women of color, in the same ways white men have been honored.
Shirley Chisholm State Park
Landfills operated by the New York City Sanitation Department were, after decades, turned to parkland on Jamaica Bay. The sprawling park, where a bright mural of Chisholm’s face looks over the entrance, partially opened in 2019.
Shirley Chisholm Place
Park Place at Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was co-named for the member of Congress after the City Council passed a law in 2008. The corner is between her family home, and where she later lived with her husband.
Shirley Chisholm Circle
Brower Park is also at that corner, and within the park, a circular terrace, dedicated to Chishom in 2016, along with a tree and a plaque. Chisholm taught classes across the street from the park and sometimes in the park on nice days.
Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building
The 13-story office building in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, has a museum exhibit about Chisholm in the lobby. Home to one of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ district offices, among government agencies, the building was named for Chisholm in 2010.
Shirley A. Chisholm Center for Equity Studies
Based in the state office building named for Chisholm, the initiative by SUNY Empire State College is dedicated to research on the present day inequities deriving from the legacies of colonialism and Black enslavement. It was founded in 2020.
Shirley Chisholm Campus
Students from The Science And Medicine Middle School in Canarsie, Brooklyn, go to the school at this campus. There also was a Shirley Chisholm Early Childhood Education Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant that closed and two other day care sites named for her nearby.
Shirley Chisholm Recreation Center
When the East Flatbush project is expected to be built by the end of 2025, it will include a gym, a track, indoor pool, teaching kitchens and a tech and business incubator. Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pitched it in 2020 as a project funded by reallocating money from the NYPD.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the design process had been restarted for five She Built NYC statues of prominent women. A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs said the process has only restarted for the Chisholm statue.
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