Columbus rulers dedicate stones at Gladden Park Justice Trail

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From Columbus artist Aminah Robinson to children’s author Dr. Seuss, the words of those concerned with social justice, both local and national, have been immortalized along a walkway at Washington Gladden Social Justice Park .

Over the past three years, the park’s Pathway of Justice at the corner of East Broad Street and Cleveland Avenue in the Discovery District of Columbus has come to house 37 stones bearing notable quotes from equally notable figures.

And for the first time since the space opened in October 2018, what organizers believe is the country’s first park dedicated to the theme of social justice, Columbus civic and religious leaders gathered on Sunday afternoon. to dedicate these inspiring markers.

A crowd of around 100 took refuge from the rain in tents and their own umbrellas while Reverend Tim Ahrens, Senior Minister of First Congregational Church Downtown, led the proceedings.

It was joined by Franklin County Commissioner Erica Crawley, who said: “It’s not a big park by area, but it still takes up a lot of space on its own. I love the way this park offers an entire community … a place to learn and reflect. “

At a cost of $ 3.7 million, the park opened three years ago to serve as a catalyst for community action on social justice issues. The space is built on land owned by the First Congregational Church across the street, and is the result of a public-private partnership.

Find out more about the opening of the park: Mural in new park pays tribute to Columbus social justice pioneers

A walkway stone bearing Arabic script and an English translation waits to be placed vertically in accordance with Islamic traditions at the Washington Gladden Social Justice Park.

Among the park’s features is a temporary mural telling the stories of local public figures who have been brought in to effect positive change, including the park’s namesake, Reverend Washington Gladden, civil rights activist and former pastor of the First Congregational Church.

The Path to Justice is made up of blue stones engraved with phrases that together form a pattern based on a modified Morse code that, when resolved, itself carries a message of social justice.

One of the most recent stones added to the path is in honor of Marian Wright Edelman, civil rights activist and founder of the nonprofit Children’s Advocacy Fund, which focuses on children’s advocacy and research.

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Funded by the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, Edelman’s Stone features the quote: “The future we hold in confidence for our own children will be shaped by our fairness to the children of others.

Speaking to the crowd, Tracy Nájera, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, said her organization proudly continues the mission started by Edelman, who, at 82, is president emeritus of the national organization.

“So much has changed for the better, but there is still so much unfinished business,” said Nájera. “We need to mend the fractures and divisions we experience as a nation, and we also need to recognize that our children are watching and listening.”

Recent coverage: Sculpture of Social Justice Park intended to inspire unity, social change

Edelman joins a host of social justice pioneers from Columbus and across the country whose lives and achievements are remembered in the park. These include the Reverend James Poindexter, a politician and civil rights activist who became the first African American to serve on Columbus City Council; the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Martin Luther King jr .; and Robinson.

As of this weekend, that roster also includes famed Ohio Buckeyes running back Archie Griffin.

Griffin was on hand to dedicate a stone to William “Bill” Willis Sr., a former Ohio State player recognized as one of the first African Americans to play football in the modern era.

“We are selling his legacy short if we only remember his dazzling athletic talent,” Griffin said. “Bill has been a guiding force for so many young people.”

However, it was a surprise to Griffin when he learned at the ceremony that the Ohio State University Alumni Association, of which Griffin is the former president and CEO, had partnered with the university’s sports department to buy a stone in his honor.

“Archie, what you said about Bill is true for you,” Ahrens told Griffin. “You have inspired generations of people to be better and to do better.”

Ahrens pointed out that the park trail is always getting bigger; the catwalk has room for a total of 60 stone slots, meaning 23 more quotes can be added near Griffin’s:

“In the face of adversity, you find out if you’re a fighter or a coward. It’s all about getting back up after you’ve been knocked down.”

Archie Griffin and William, former Ohio State football players "Invoice" Willis Sr. was honored with Gateway Stones at Washington Gladden Social Justice Park.

Eric Lagatta is a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch covering public safety, breaking news and social justice issues. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EricLagatta

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