Text and photos by Ron O’Clair
I was pleased to have attended the re-dedication ceremony of the “Citizens of Color” monument held on Pearl Harbor Day, 07 December, 2017, at Lincoln Square.
The original monument was erected in 1943, while the second World War was ongoing, to honor those people of color who made the sacrifice of participating in the war effort in various ways. Of the 145 people who were listed on the original monument, only two are still alive. One survivor, Mr. Waverly Taylor, who is 96, actually attended the ceremony in his wheelchair.
The event drew an interesting crowd of spectators, many of whom were veterans of one of the branches of the military themselves. It was a long overdue ceremony …
… the original monument had been removed from its previous location at Belmont and Clayton streets due to the construction of Interstate Highway 290 in 1959 and somehow was forgotten about, and not re-dedicated until now.
There were many people who were crusaders advocating for the replacement of the monument, myself included. We thought it was disgraceful that Worcester had seemed to forget about those citizens of color who had made the choice to serve their nation, or were drafted into service. The petition authored by community activist Mr. William S. Coleman III brought the matter before the full Worcester City Council, during which members of the public were allowed to speak on the item of having the City of Worcester replace the monument. The effort sailed through the City Council with a unanimous vote in favor of replacing the monument.
Worcester City Councilor at Large Morris (“Moe”) Bergman was very helpful throughout to ensure the speedy resolution of the matter. It was decided that a replacement monument would be fabricated, since the original had been lost sometime in the past and could not be located for restoration.
The decision was also made to have the Worcester Technical High School students perform the work required to fabricate a replacement monument as part of their school curriculum, earning them credit for their contributions in the welding, drafting and advanced manufacturing departments of the Worcester Technical High School. The students did a fantastic job and were on hand to see their effort pay dividends to the community today.
The original location of the monument was on the corner of Belmont and Clayton streets, where a wooden Belmont AME Zion Church once stood. The church is no longer there, due to the construction of the interstate highway beginning in 1959. The Belmont AME Zion church is now located at 55 Illinois St., and Reverend Clyde Talley of that church performed the Invocation, as well as the Benediction in the ceremony of re-dedication. He then invited all participants to the Belmont AME Zion church for light refreshments after the ceremony, as well as to see some photographs provided by the families on the Honor Roll which were displayed at the church event.
It was a great way for Worcester to honor the brave servicemen who had long been forgotten by choosing the date of December 7th – which is the date that will live on in infamy.
This photograph shows the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II Red Tails, which was an all-Black unit of pilots that escorted the bomber crews onto their targets during the war. The jacket was worn by Mrs. Hazzard who has family listed on the Honor Roll. The Tuskegee pilots were especially appreciated by bomber crews for their dedication and ability in the task.