The statue of African-American leader Leon Jordan in his namesake park could be getting some company — the names of 1,000 other leaders enshrined on a wall.
While he was a Jackson County legislator, James Tindall proposed the construction of a Freedom Memorial Wall to honor people who have contributed to significant progress in Jackson County — particularly from the African-American community.
“They’ve been forgotten, and we want this community to look back over the years and see the people who have made these contributions,” Tindall said.
On June 30, Tindall’s final day before leaving his position, the Jackson County Legislature approved the creation of the Freedom Memorial Wall Commission to select the names.
Other details, such as costs or a project timeline, have yet to be decided.
In April, Tindall announced he would resign his seat rather than fight attempts to remove him from office. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker had been prepared to take steps to have him removed because of a 1999 felony tax fraud conviction.
Tindall said he had been floating the idea to create the wall for the past two or three years, ever since he thought about how nice it would be to see other people, in addition to Leon Jordan, honored in the park at 31st Street and Benton Boulevard. Jordan, who was murdered in 1970, was a founding member of Freedom Inc., a political club that registered African-American voters and campaigned for candidates.
Although the design of the proposed memorial is still in the works, Tindall imagines it being filled not only with 1,000 names, but also descriptions of each of their contributions to the community.
“If somebody else tells our story, they’ll get it wrong, so we have to tell our own story,” he said.
The Rev. Nelson “Fuzzy” Thompson, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, thought the project would be a good idea, saying the wall could help the self-image of the African-American community by recognizing people who have made major contributions.
“If the African-American community is lifted up, it lifts up the entire community,” he said.
Nelson sees all kinds of landmarks around town, such as road signs and statues, that recognize community members. He’ll often drive down streets named for different individuals — some he has known, others he hasn’t. The recognition of those names offers a sense of community pride, he said.
“That improves the whole city when you have areas that are upheld by the city and protected by the city,” he said.
Gwendolyn Grant, the president of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, said she hopes plans to build the monument in Leon M. Jordan Memorial Park will be a catalyst for other improvements in the area. Right now, she said, there isn’t much going on to attract people, who otherwise wouldn’t know the wall was there.
“We need to bring positive development to that community,” she said. “It’s all about capturing and celebrating the history and the accomplishments people have made in creating the world that we live in.”
The commission that was approved last month will set the criteria for who is chosen to be honored on the wall.
“I think it’s a good idea. We just have to see if we can afford it and where it fits into things,” said Scott Burnett, a county legislator.
Tindall said the goal is to have the commission pick 100 names each year for 10 years, with a ceremony each year for the inductees, who could be living or dead.