THE MONUMENT, LOCATED ON MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DRIVE, AND COMPLETED IN 2017, FEATURES THE CONFEDERATE FLAG. THE BILLBOARD WILL FEATURE A QUOTE FROM DR. KING.
At a time when Confederate monuments are rightfully coming down all over the country, a new monument — thought to be the largest Confederate monument built in 100 years — has recently been constructed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Orange, Texas, a city where approximately 50% of citizens are black.
Adding to the offense, the monument is located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, one of the city's main arteries. The idea that a monument celebrating war and slave states would be built on the road named for a man who dedicated is life to non-violence and racial justice is an affront to Dr. King’s legacy and life’s work.
Both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Equal Justice Initiative have detailed how Confederate monuments have been installed throughout our country to glorify a culture dominated by racial inequality and oppression. The Confederate Monument of the Wind in Orange, Texas is located on private property, and attempts to discuss the repurposing of the monument have thus far failed. The City of Orange, the local business community, and even a group of local pastors have asked the Sons member who organized the monument's construction, Granvel Block, to consider repurposing the site. But he refuses to engage in dialog.
Given the demographics of Orange and the legacy of Jim Crow there, it's clear that the conspicuous display of the Confederate Flag doesn't reflect or align with community values. The monument's prominent location along Interstate 10 (just a few exits from the Louisiana border) makes it highly visible to drivers as they arrive in the state heading west. It is estimated that 55,000 drivers pass through daily.
Securing space on the billboard that rises above the monument will allow the community of Orange to counteract the monument with anti-racist messages of justice, love, and unity. The words of heroes like Dr. King have much to teach us today.
My wife Tracie Parzen, who grew up in Orange, and I (Jeremy Parzen) have previously raised money to rent space on the billboard in one-month intervals. Now we’re trying to raise enough money to keep a billboard up for six months.
(Read a February 2018 Houstonia magazine article on the monument here.)
Artwork for the billboard is being created pro bono by Texas-based designer Ashley Evans who, like Tracie, grew up in Orange.
The billboard will include the following quote from Dr. King: "The time is always right to do right." The quote comes from his speech Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution at Oberlin College in June 1965. It will also include a link to a blog we've created to document our efforts, Repurpose Memorial.
See our MLK Day 2020 billboard, also designed by Ashley Evans, below.
Tracie and I have been protesting the memorial since December 2017 and we have no intention of giving up on our cause.