Freedom Park: A Beacon for the Future

By Kyra Harrison

Ground has officially been broken on North Carolina Freedom Park in downtown Raleigh between the governor’s executive Residence and the legislative building. The late architect, Phil Freelon, and his team at Perkins and Will designed this landscape in hopes that it would give honor to the African American experience and their struggle for freedom will be better recognized. 

The initial funding for Freedom Park had begun in 2002 by the Paul Green Foundation and by 2004 the project had become publicly supported. By 2008 the NC Historical Commission had granted approval of the park’s design and was confident that it would be a positive monument to the state’s African American heritage. 

Throughout the park, there will be various quotes spoken by African American North Carolinians that have spent their lives fighting for freedom and equality. Some of these quotes that are included in the park come from an enslaved man named Moses Grandy. 

“In my sleep, I always dream of flying over woods and rivers,” the quote from Grandy said.

The vision for this park and the use of the quotes were important. They did not want to use statues, instead, they wanted inspiration from ordinary people to be highlighted for inspiration. This idea will help those who walk through the park to feel as though they can make just as much a difference. 

Freedom Park will also contain a flame-shaped sculpture, called “The Beacon of Freedom”. The idea for this sculpture was based on a quote from Lyda Moore Merrick,  a North Carolinian civil leader, activist, and editor, and her words of wisdom. The sculpture is intended to be 40-feet in height and is symbolic of the struggles that African Americans have faced throughout the years. 

“My father passed a torch to me, which I have never let go of,” said the quote from Moore Merrick. 

Phil Freelon was a firm believer that excellence in design was especially critical to the promotion of the ideas for this park. The approval of state funding for this park by Gov. Roy Cooper was a large boost for this project. Unfortunately, the board is still looking for an additional $1 million dollars of funding from the donations of private sources. 

It is projected that it will take about a year to complete this project; their hope is to have it open and ready for people to enjoy it by the end of 2021. Reginald Hildebrand, Freedom Park Board member, is enthusiastic about the park and believes that the park will serve as a “gift to future generations.”

Peyton Howard, a 20-year-old sophomore from William Peace University, is inspired by the park and believes that it will have a very positive outcome on the city and people of Raleigh.

“I am excited about the park and interested to see what the final outcome will be,” says Howard. “I think it is awesome that there is a park representing African Americans, their culture, and their journey towards equality.”