Finally! After four years of higgling and haggling, the Public Design Commission has approved a statue to honor the political career of Rep. Shirley Chisholm of Brooklyn. The 32-foot-tall yellow-and-green steel sculpture, 8 feet smaller than the original proposed by the artist Amanda Williams and Olalekan B. Jeyifous, will rise in a plaza in Prospect Park.
When completed, it will be the first permanent artwork in the borough dedicated to a woman in history, and it’s a good choice for a representative who was “unbought and unbossed,” as she proclaimed in her autobiography. Chisholm, who died in 2005 at 80, was the first African American congresswoman, as well as one of the first women and the first African American to run for president.
The monument, which in many ways is similar to the one in Harlem by Elizabeth Catlett honoring Ralph Ellison, will stand as a companion tribute to the Shirley Chisholm State Park, which offers spectacular panoramic views of the Empire State Building, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the New York Harbor, and Jamaica Bay—all in keeping with Chisholm’s ever-widening perspective on civil and human rights.
“This administration is committed to working to tell a more complete story surrounding the trailblazing women who have shaped our city, and we are ready to get more of these projects back underway,” said Laurie Cumbo, New York City’s current Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, of the monument.
In 2019, the Chisholm monument was proposed as the headliner of She Built NYC, an ambitious program created by the Bill de Blasio administration and led by the former first lady, Chirlane McCray, to diversify the city’s sculptures with a commitment of up to $10 million over four years.
When Williams and Jeyifous presented their proposal and rendering, which they titled “Our Destiny, Our Democracy,” McCray said, “Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s dynamic leadership and activism continues to inspire all who learn her story, and her service deserves public recognition. This artwork will be bright, bold, and makes a statement—just like Chisholm herself.”
Yep, just like the undaunted, redoubtable Shirley!