News & Updates

Celebrating Community in lowa

The Crisis Magazine | Fall 2014
by: Lottie L. Joiner

Sculpture Park in Sioux City, Iowa recognizes everyday heroes.

In each state, city, small town or local community you’ll find those who mode a difference in the lives
of others, stood up to power, took a stand for justice and fought for what was right.

Sioux City, Iowa, is recognizing its local heroes with a sculpture park. According to the Celebrating Community Project website, the park will honor “the strength, commitment and fortitude of common, ordinary people who represent the best of humanity in Siouxland…people who have token selfless action to help those that hove been marginalized.”

“There’s a rich history here,” says Flora Lee, president of the Sioux City, lowa, NAACP chapter. “The issues that impact large communities of African Americans impact us, too.”

As a result, the Celebrating Community Project will honor 13 individuals with bronze busts sculpted in their likeness who worked on behalf of minorities, the elderly, women, children, the homeless, veterans, disabled Americans, and victims of domestic violence and recovery/substance abuse. Each bust will be placed on a pedestal along with a plaque that tells its story.

The idea of a Sculpture Park came from sculptor Mark Avery and his wife, Terri. Avery had sculpted a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in honor of the 100th anniversary of the NAACP and gave it to the Sioux City chapter to be placed in front of the city’s Martin Luther King Jr., Transportation Center. He thought it would be a good idea to honor local heroes and partnered with the NAACP to create the Celebrating Community Project organization.

“The idea was from God,” says Avery. “It’s a very spiritual project, a tremendous inspiration.”

Those honored include Rabbi Albert Gordon, who created he Human Rights Commission in Sioux City; Evelyn Freeman, the first African American teacher in the city; and Sgt. 1st Class John Raymond Rice, a war veteran who received a Purple Heart for his valiant efforts in World War II. There’s also Beulah Webb, the first executive director of the city’s senior citizen center, who fought on behalf of the elderly, and the first female Native American medical doctor in the United States.

Avery hopes the busts help erase the boundaries around color, religion, class and disability. Lee also hopes the Sculpture Park will encourage people to look beyond their biases.

“We all have individual responsibility in addressing and breaking down those barriers,” says Lee.

The busts are scheduled to be unveiled next fall. Once they’re completed, Celebrating Community hopes to work with the Sioux City Community School District to incorporate the Sculpture Park into fourth-grade history classes.

“Our hope is that young people see that the way to deepest happiness is through unselfishly service other people,” says Lee.