Detroiters invited to contribute to permanent Healing Memorial for COVID-19 victims

The city of Detroit's Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship (ACE); the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy (DRC); and the Cranbrook Art Museum are creating a permanent, living memorial to Metro Detroiters who died from COVID-19 to promote healing and show support for our community.

Developed by world-renowned artist Sonya Clark, the Healing Memorial asks for those who have experienced loss to create a memorial pouch in honor of their loved ones. 

Clark, who studied at Cranbrook Academy of Art, has enacted this project as "The Beaded Prayers Project" internationally over the past two decades. This version of the installation will be the first dedicated to a specific city.

The Beaded Prayers Project.
"At the heart of this project is the power of people coming together to offer something seemingly small, but ultimately powerful and wholly collective," Clark says. "Each beaded prayer is the seed of a person's intent and memory. Together we make a garden of our humanity, an ecosystem providing sustenance and succor."

Within each pouch, participants will write on a piece of paper a memory, a note to a loved one, an intention, or a hope for the future. Those notes will then be encapsulated with fabric and sewn or tied shut. Participants will then attach a bead, and what will remain is thousands of individual memories all unified with a bead.  

The completed work will be unveiled on the city of Detroit's official COVID Memorial Day, Aug. 31, in a dramatic 20-foot-by-20-foot installation. 

The project has been made possible with financial support from the Ford Fund, TCF Bank, the city of Detroit, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and Cranbrook Art Museum.

Thousands of Metro Detroiters died during the pandemic, which has changed our lives, city, and society forever. The organizers of the memorial are hoping to reach as many of their loved ones as possible to encourage their participation. 

"Last summer, when the city hosted the COVID-19 Memorial Drive around Belle Isle, we couldn't include everyone," ACE Director Rochelle Riley says. "We promised, as the hub of this great region, to come back with a larger memorial for everyone. This is it, and it is designed to help us all heal from whatever loss hurts us – loss of loved ones, loss of job, loss of a sense of security. We want to provide a space to try to heal it all."

Stations will be set up during the Sidewalk Festival, where families can bring special tokens and learn how to make a memorial pouch. As we shared last week, the festival will hit four different neighborhoods and kicked off last weekend. 

A young participant creates a healing pouch for the COVID-19 Healing Memorial.
Family members who are not able to attend can watch a YouTube video to learn how to make a pouch and drop it off at the DRC Ambassador Carts located at Cullen Plaza (1340 E. Atwater, Detroit, MI 48207) or Valade Park (2670 E. Atwater, Detroit, MI 48207) on Fridays from 4-7 p.m. or Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.  The DRC Ambassador Cart is a blue cart located near the restrooms at Cullen Plaza, and inside of the Shed at Valade Park. 

For more information, visit the memorial's official website.

Read more articles by Biba Adams.

Biba Adams is Model D's Editor at Large. She is a longtime journalist whose work is fueled by her passion for people and her native Detroit. Her work has appeared in VIBE, Ebony Magazine, TheGrio, and more. Find her on all social channels @BibatheDiva.