Rallying a city around an initiative is no small undertaking, but when Filmmaker and RCTV General Manager Carvin Eison looked around in 2017 and discovered no consolidated plan for the celebration and commemoration of the 200th Birthday of Frederick Douglass, he became determined not to let this momentous occasion pass without fanfare.
Soon, he, Bleu Cease (Rochester Contemporary Art Center) and Chris Christopher (Christopher Communications) launched the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee which engaged more than 60 community partners in celebrating the legacy of Frederick Douglass. The 2018 year-long celebration is being called “Reenergizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass.”
Throughout 2018, Douglass’ 200th birthday is being commemorated with a variety of landmark events that have included a “Shine the Light on Douglass” event with the RIT big shot team, The Agitators world premiere at Geva Theatre Center, Frederick Douglass at 200 Concert by the Rochester Oratorio Society, No Soil Better Exhibit at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, A presentation called “One Million Abolitionists” by Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. at the University of Rochester, Focus 45: Frederick Douglass and his Photographic Legacy at the George Eastman Museum, and many more events, exhibitions and presentations.
As part of this celebration, the original Stanley Edwards statue, currently located in Highland Bowl, will be moved later this year to a more prominent position in Highland Park, thanks to the commitment of Monroe County. The City of Rochester, Rochester Area Community Foundation, The Farash Foundation and many other organizations have been instrumental in supporting this initiative.
One of the key projects of this commemorative year, initiated by Carvin Eison, is the creation of over a dozen statues of Frederick Douglass, sculpted by artist Olivia Kim, that will be installed throughout Rochester in “legacy locations.” These statues will be part of the Douglass Tour, and will focus on locations throughout the city that had significance in the life of Frederick Douglass. Visitors to the statues will be able to use their phones to access information about the history of the location, by accessing the website using the QR code at the base of the statue.
In a recent interview with Carvin Eison, we discussed the importance of the project, how it came about, and talked about the many partners who collaborated to make this year a success.