Cape Verdeans march, continue struggle for monument in Providence
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — They waved the Cape Verdean flag and banged on drums while marching on Sunday to India Point Park near where their ancestors first landed after leaving the West African islands and where they dream of erecting a monument to the historical and cultural legacy of their people.
If only they could get city leaders on board, said organizer Claire Andrade-Watkins. For years the group has won approvals, but there always seems to be another obstacle placed in its path.
“This is a political moment,” she said. “We’ve been working on this for 10 years.”
She characterized the struggle as the same one her Cape Verdean community has been up against for years: people of color who immigrated from Africa versus the wealthy and powerful.
Decades ago, she said, it was the backers of projects to build Interstate 195 and expand Brown University that displaced Cape Verdeans from Fox Point neighborhoods where they settled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Now the Cape Verdean community is at odds with the Friends of India Point Park and its gentrified neighborhoods.
“The new Fox Point,” Andrade-Watkins called it. “They have a different vision.”
What the Fox Point Cape Verdean Heritage Park Committee wants is roughly half of an acre for an amphitheater-shaped monument. It would be located on the eastern end of the park, near the Community Boating Center.
The monument would serve as a tribute to the people who fled islands exploited by the slave trade, who were the first Africans to freely arrive in the United States, and who after landing near Fox Point, found unskilled work in the factories and on the waterfront and created the nation’s first predominantly black longshoreman’s union.
“This is sacred ground, our Plymouth Rock,” said Andrade-Watkins.
About 50 people people took part on Sunday, forming a procession that started on South Water Street. It was an appropriate location, said Andrade-Watkins, because it was at the bottom of College Hill. The powerful and wealthy have traditionally occupied the hilltop and their interests eventually dislodged Cape Verdeans from surrounding, lower environs.
The procession worked its way down the waterfront to India Point Park, where they listened to remarks by Andrade-Watkins and a presentation of a rendering of the monument by Boston landscape architect Carol Johnson.
For more information, visit www.fpcapeverdeanhp.org
By Rich Salit / providencejournal.com
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