Community celebrates unveiling of civil rights memorial monument, honoring sacrifice and friendship

What’s happening: City officials and community members celebrated the unveiling of a new monument at a westside park late last week, one that honors a Detroiter who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1965. The monument, “Sisters in Life-Sisters in Struggle,” also pays tribute to the slain activist’s friend who helped raise her children following the tragedy.

Backstory: The monument pays tribute to Viola Liuzzo and Sarah Evans, white and Black Detroiters, respectively, whose close friendship inspired Liuzzo to become active in the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. Liuzzo had asked Evans to help watch her children while she drove to join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his third march at Selma, Alabama. Liuzzo was murdered by the KKK following the march, and Evans helped raise her children following the tragedy.

What they built: The 7-foot, granite monument was unveiled on Thursday, Sept. 28, at Viola Liuzzo Park in the Greenfield neighborhood. The park, which itself was created in the 1970s, also features a statue of Liuzzo and the Viola Liuzzo Playground. This new monument features two sides; the first has “Sisters in Life-Sisters in Struggle” laser-etched above photos of Liuzzo and Evans, and captions that tell their stories. The second reads “It’s Everybody’s Fight” atop a LIFE magazine cover displaying civil rights headlines of the 1960s.

Detroit Historian Jamon Jordan talks with Dorothy Dewberry Aldridge, Civil Rights activist who, for decades, envisioned the beautiful monument unveiled today. (City of Detroit)How they did it: The Viola Liuzzo Park Association (VLPA) collaborated with the City of Detroit on a fundraising effort that yielded $22,000 for the creation of the monument.

Why it’s important: "The Viola Liuzzo Park Association has been hard at work in partnership with the City of Detroit and others for the past nine years restoring the Viola Liuzzo Playground," says Artis Johnson, President of VLPA. "With the installation of this Civil Rights Memorial Monument, we continue to honor the sacrifice of Dr. Viola Liuzzo and her friendship with Mrs. Sarah Evans, as well as Detroiters who answered Dr. King's call to come to Selma in 1965."

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.