to complete the African-American Cultural Garden BECOME PART OF HISTORY

THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROUS SUPPORT

The Association of African American Cultural Gardens provides unique educational experiences in a beautiful, inclusive atmosphere where individuals of all ages and backgrounds can interact in a space relevant to African American history.

 

The Association of African American Cultural Gardens is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the completion and maintenance of the African American Cultural Garden which is located within the Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation. The AAACG has been the sponsoring organization for the African American Cultural Garden within the Cultural Garden Federation since 2003.  Our mission also includes hosting events that promote knowledge of African American history and that celebrate African American culture.

History

The journey to  claim a site for an African American Cultural Garden began in 1961 when Councilman Leo Jackson proposed a Negro garden on a small acreage close to Rockefeller Park.  Years passed, however, without resolution. In 1969, Cuyahoga Community College professor Booker Tall spearheaded a new campaign to acquire a parcel for an African American garden beginning with a request for a site that was probably the one proposed by Leo Jackson. This site did not meet CGF approval and Tall’s group, the African American Cultural Garden Federation, chose an alternate site within the Cultural Garden chain for which Architect Robert P. Madison created a conceptual design.   That particular site was never acquired and Mr. Madison’s design was tabled.


Land for the African American Cultural Garden at its present site was dedicated at last on October 23, 1977. The ceremony was attended by hundreds of supporters and diplomats representing multiple African Nations as well as local dignitaries including County Commissioner George Voinovich who gave the keynote address.

Booker Tall’s group initially planned to honor six widely renown African Americans who also had roots in Ohio or had a major impact in Ohio: Richard Allen, Garrett Morgan Sr, Jesse Owens, John P. Green, Jane Edna Hunter,  and Langston Hughes.  In 1985, the Cleveland Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine reported that 4 bronze plaques for the Garden had been created but were placed in storage for safe keeping. In addition, Booker Tall commissioned sculptor Ed Parker to create a bust of John P. Green. Unfortunately, these items were never installed. The Garden lost a champion when Mr. Tall passed away in 1994.

The next notable vocal community activist for completion of the garden was Mrs. Cordell Edge, a long time Glenville resident who became a CGF delegate for the Garden in 2000. She organized the African American Cultural Garden Community Support Group that was renamed the Association of African  American Cultural Gardens which continues operation today.  During her tenure, Mrs. Edge assembled a design committee sponsored by local chapters of the National Council of Negro Women.  This group worked closely with the architectural firm of James McKnight and African American landscape architect and Cleveland State University professor Austin Allen, PhD to create a conceptual design for the Garden. Regretfully,  Mrs. Edge passed away in 2003 and this plan also never came to fruition.

Mr. Carl Ewing has served as  president of the AAACG from 2012 to present and secured nonprofit status for the organization. His administration has overseen several effective fundraising efforts and media campaigns. He began working with the African American Cultural Garden Society, a task force created by Mayor Frank Jackson (2005-2020) to implement a new design for the African American Garden created by architect W. Daniel Bickerstaff II and approved by the task force in 2011. 

Sufficient monies for groundbreaking was achieved in 2015 with major assistance from Mayor Jackson’s task force and the prior administration of Mayor Michael White (1990-2002).  The first component of the design was completed and dedicated in 2016. Fundraising to complete the installation is ongoing.

 

The current design was conceived with poetic license by Mr. Bickerstaff as Past, Present and Future Pavilions but is described here as ‘The Journey’.

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Carl S. Ewing, President

The Association of The African American Cultural Gardens

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W. Daniel Bickerstaff II, Architect

The Association of The African American Cultural Gardens

THE JOURNEY .......DEPARTURE FROM AFRICA

This segment translates the experience of the initial aspects of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade through an interpretation of the corridors, dungeons and ultimately the “Doorway of No Return” of the slave castles located along the western coast of Africa. The polished black granite walls of the ‘Corridor of No Return’ create a sensation of compression, tension and apprehension. The “Doorway of No Return” is the sandstone portal which personifies fear of unknown transition. The infinity fountain is a depiction of the Atlantic Ocean as seen through the actual doorways the unfortunates were forced to pass through.

The stairways leading down to the emergence sculpture and multi-use platform  allude to the sense of descending into the bowels of the slave ships.

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FUNDING

PHASE 1 HAS BEEN CONSTRUCTED. THE ASSOCIATION OF AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURAL GARDENS IS NOW WORKING TO SECURE AN ADDITIONAL

$3.7 MILLION

FOR THE COMPLETION OF PHASE 3.

EMERGENCE

A pyramidal, concave black granite sculpture rising boldly from the western edge of the multi-use platform symbolizes emergence of African Americans as leaders in all disciplines making valuable contributions to American and World heritage despite myriad challenges. 

 

UNTIL VICTORY IS WON

The journey continues from the elevated platform along an elongated ramp bringing to mind marches for civil rights and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s quote which paraphrased the words of abolitionist Rev. Theodore Parker:  “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice” as the ramp meets street level. Seating at the end of the ramp surrounding a celebratory fountain is a place for reflection. 

 

THE WATER FEATURE of the monument represents the Atlantic Ocean at the beginning of the journey and North American waterways to freedom such as the Ohio River and the Great Lakes as the journey continues.  Falling water at the Emergence Sculpture and celebratory fountain at the end of the sloped walkway augment the notion of African American industry, determination and strength.  Water continuity between the extremes of the monument is symbolic of the AAACG motto based on the adage symbolized by the Sankofa bird, an Akan adinkra symbol, “We learn from the past as we live in the present to secure our future”.

THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURAL GARDEN

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