Tag Archives: Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial”

(Tweaked! Again! Sorry!) … Just one question for Worcester’s city council and city manager …

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There’s plenty of room on our Common for Worcester’s planned memorial to our city’s fallen African American W W II soldiers. Right here, for instance – the Franklin Street side of City Hall.        pics: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

… Why is Worcester’s planned memorial to our fallen African American W W II soldiers being erected at the Worcester Police Station?

Why not put the statue honoring our Black soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice right where it belongs? On the Worcester Common, along with all the other statues honoring Worcester’s fallen heroes?

There’s a slew of them on our Common –  in the middle of our soon-to-be revitalized downtown! Around and behind Worcester City Hall … they adorn the grass and trees that surround them even as we try (at least on holidays) to adorn them – lay wreaths braided with flowers or pine at their feet. We walk or drive by the stone and iron soldiers if we work in or visit the heart of our city. They make you think … put aside your work, dining, shopping obsessions for a few fleeting seconds to see something greater – a person’s life story, a city’s story, world history. The stone and iron soldiers come alive!

You can even build the new memorial to our Black WW II soldiers next to our John Power WW II monument that stands right outside our City Hall. The monument to our Black WW II heroes –  it was called the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” –  was once located in our African American Laurel-Clayton neighborhood but disappeared, along with the neighborhood!, when the interstate highway was built.  John Power is STILL with us – standing guard by Worcester City Hall (see my photo, above). So, truth be told, we will be building a new monument because we lost, destroyed, the old one! How can you “lose” a monument? What does that “loss” say about our city a few decades ago? Back then, how sacred to our city fathers were the memories of these dead African American soldiers – Black men from Laurel-Clayton, from Worcester?

Not very sacred at all.

Hell! There’s room for a tank or a couple of Jeeps to the right of the John Power statue. There John stands as the hip students walk by to get to their recently built dorms on Franklin Street …

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Soldier Power doesnt look hip at all! He looks like your average WW II grunt – ditch digger, mucking around in stinking trenches with penecillin pills, canned spam in his knap sack  –  but a KILLER too. Make no mistake! See the rifle slung over Power’s right shoulder and the long dagger in his left hand? He’s clutching the dagger ready for the fight – hand to hand combat – to the death probably. How can any city deprive a Black soldier, who fought the same fight, the honor we’ve bestowed on John Power? Power’s helmet is on askew cuz he’s in battle. He looks Irish – and a little cockey. Why can’t we humanize our dead African American soldiers this lovingly?

Why can’t Worcester’s Black community have the same thing? A touching yet tough depiction of men in war in stone?

Why stick our Black soldiers at the bottom of Bell Hill, at the Worcester police station, in the middle of a 20-way intersection, surrounded by ugly concrete (we’re talking the police station, too!) – a place where few will visit, stop to honor these men, think about them? A place where drug dealers, robbers, rapists and killers are flung?

Yes, the police station is a stone’s throw from the old Laurel-Clayton neighborhood, razed and replaced by the Plumley Village low-income public housing complex, home to many people of color – Blacks, included. Why not – I’m certain residents would be honored -put the monument there? It would be back at its real home. Placed before the entrance way to the buildings and high rise, lots of folks would stop and pay their respects.

Or is that the point? The intention (maybe subconscious) of Worcester City Leaders? To keep the monument to our fallen Black WW II Soldiers out of the public eye –  especially out of reach of the African American community?

And something else…to stop it from being a focal point, a symbol, a place for Blacks to gather, to remember, to rally, to teach … to protest. So often people come to their city or town common to express views, speech-ify … Protest! It’s been happening as long as there have been places where people chose to live together. A kind of gathering at the communal fire place! In America we’ve been doing it ever since our forefathers and mothers sailed into Plymouth Rock!

It’s happening still. All over. Especially with Black Lives Matter and, before that, Occupy Wall Street. It’s happening in Worcester. Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has come down brutally hard on the BLM movement/rallies here, just as his predecessor City Manager I HATE ALL POOR RESIDENTS Mike O’Brien was hard with Occupy Wall Street protesters – refusing to meet with them, making sure they were off THEIR Worcester Common!

Would city leaders want a Black Lives Matter march to end at the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” on the Worcester Common? Would they want to see anyone give witness to pain, anger, racial discrimination in Worcester, “a city on the move”? Would they want a large crowd of folks agitating for change? In the middle of downtown?

Nope.

Is this what John Power died for?

*******

(P.S. Don’t let this happen, Bill Coleman and James Bonds!)

Worcester must honor those who served!

By Ron O’Clair

I was pleased to show my support for the item on the Worcester City Council Agenda for the 29th of March 2016 meeting to fund the restoration of the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” that had been taken down in 1959 after having been erected at Belmont and Clayton streets in 1943 by a grateful City of Worcester to honor those members of our community who gave their service to the nation during World War II.

The reason the memorial was taken down was it was in the path of the proposed I-290 Interstate Highway then being built through Worcester. It was a huge project, and there were a lot of land takings, building demolitions and street alterations made to accommodate putting an Interstate Highway through the heart of our city.

Many things were happening during that time of upheaval, and the project was not completed for quite some time from that starting date of 1959. In fact, they were still working on a section of it when the bridge under construction collapsed at College Square in April of 1968. My older brother Donald and I had walked under the bridge to go to the A & P Supermarket located at the Four Corners on Southbridge Street. We walked back under the bridge under construction going back to where our family was living on Caro Street … We had just turned onto College Hill when the bridge behind us came down. We narrowly escaped death.

Apparently, with all of the things happening during that time of upheaval, with the land takings of two public schools, three synagogues, numerous private homes and businesses being torn down and roads being dead-ended, the absence of the memorial to the “colored citizens” went somehow unnoticed and not restored upon completion of the Interstate Highway.

Somehow the City of Worcester never got around to putting the memorial back up in another spot, and no one raised a fuss about it.

As far as I have been able to determine the people who’s names were on that “colored citizens” memorial have not been added to any other monument erected since that one was removed and are not being honored at all today.

That I find highly unacceptable as a fellow Veteran and as a Patriot, as well as a City of Worcester booster. There was an outpouring of support from Veterans and Veterans’ groups at City Council meeting; vets showed up with representatives of all branches of service: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines … there might have even been a Coast Guardsman there as well. There were American Legion and Veteran of Foreign Wars members, Vietnam Veterans, all from the many different nationalities that make up the Veteran lexicon. There were Black, White, Latino, Asian and everything in between! I was pleased to see how much support this movement received! Many people, including me, spoke that night in favor of commissioning a replacement monument in Worcester as a memorial to those “colored citizens” of the City of Worcester who, through accident or design, were relegated to the past as forgotten heroes.

It was not just a “colored citizens” issue, it was a Veteran’s issue. It received an 11-0 vote from the city council in favor of rebuilding …

Thank you to all who participated, thank you to the Woecester City Council for passing the item and, most of all, thank you to those whose names graced the original memorial … for their service and sacrifice made on behalf of all who reside in the great melting pot of races that is the City of Worcester!

Please email Ronaldoclair@hotmail.com with any comments/criticisms.