City of Jacksonville and Partners Break Ground on Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing Park in LaVilla

February 24, 2021  
City official pose for a phot at groundbreaking event

Community partner Jessie Ball duPont Fund announces formal fundraising campaign for project and overall commitments of $2.5 million for park development and programming

Today, the City of Jacksonville officially broke ground on phase one of development of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in the historic LaVilla neighborhood. Community partners including the Jessie Ball duPont Fund (the duPont Fund), the Durkeeville Historical Society, and other corporate and individual donors held a commemorative ceremony to mark this important milestone during Black History Month.

“The City of Jacksonville is committed to celebrating the legacy of the Johnson Brothers and their many contributions to our rich, multicultural history,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “After years of planning meetings and discussions with community stakeholders, this groundbreaking is an important step toward making this shared community space a reality. But this park is only the beginning: Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park is a major component of a larger revitalization effort in LaVilla, one of our city’s most historically important sectors.”
 
At the groundbreaking ceremony, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund announced it is leading a formal fundraising campaign as part of a public-private partnership with the City of Jacksonville and other community organizations to bring the park to fruition and continue progress on the revitalization of LaVilla. Three major contributions were recognized:

  • $1 million from the duPont Fund to support park development and programming. This commitment is in addition to the $100,000 the Fund has already contributed to park planning. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park is a powerful example of a community working to create inclusive, equitable spaces where every member feels they belong,” said Mari Kuraishi, President of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. “We are honored to work alongside the City of Jacksonville to support this park’s planning and development with funding and facilitation, as well as directly investing in this transformative effort to create a destination for residents and visitors alike that recognizes our city’s shared history.”

  • $1 million from The Chartrand Family which includes commissioning a copy of Augusta Savage’s renowned statue Lift Every Voice and Sing (The Harp). We are honored to personally invest in Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park as a way to honor the Johnson Brothers’ legacy and the greater LaVilla neighborhood,” said Gary Chartrand of his family’s $1 million investment. “This park is as an opportunity for generations of children to learn about Jacksonville’s dynamic African-American History. We are excited for residents and visitors alike to enjoy this park and the Augusta Savage statue for years to come.”

  • $500,000 from TIAA and TIAA Bank for park development and future programming activities that will provide for the revitalization and stabilization of LaVilla in harmony with the spirit and intent of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). “The development of this new park is an important step toward an inclusive environment for all,” said Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and CEO of TIAA. “At TIAA, we’ve made diversity, equity and inclusion a cornerstone of our workplace culture. We’re proud to support programs and initiatives that promote these same ideals in the communities in which we live and serve.”

These commitments join the $710,000 already obligated by the City of Jacksonville, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and Walter Hood, the renowned landscape architect and 2019 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” who designed the park. 

Phase one of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park development includes two parts: construction on Lee Street that will begin in early spring to tie the park into Jacksonville’s signature outdoor destination project known as the Emerald Trail and finalizing park design and engineering to prepare to bid the park for construction. As part of the Emerald Trail, which will eventually encompass approximately 30 miles of trails, greenways and parks encircling the urban core, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park will be linked to 15 other historic neighborhoods and Downtown Jacksonville.

“There is a lesson for us in the way that the hymn ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ came to life: James Weldon wrote a beautiful poem and five years later, his brother J. Rosamond set it to music, and it took on new life,” said Lloyd Washington, president of the Durkeeville Historical Society. “LaVilla has lain dormant for too long. This project will help the whole LaVilla area come back to life and have its own voice again.”
 
First unveiled in October 2020, the design plans for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park celebrate Jacksonville’s strong multicultural heritage and encapsulates the City’s vision for a more inclusive, vibrant LaVilla for generations to come. To learn more about the park, please visit www.dupontfund.org/LEVS.