For more than 25 years, the volunteers of the Monumental Task Committee Inc. (monumentaltask.org) have been taking care of ALL city monuments. Countless volunteer hours and money have been spent saving our monuments from the elements of nature, vandalism and neglect.
Now, we find ourselves trying to save the city’s monuments — from the city.
Removing any monument from the city will not achieve a common good and would be a very bad precedent. The great historical diversity of our city comes from many sources, but exclusion is not one of these. Our monuments are supposed to convey messages from the past to future generations — both good messages and some that are difficult to comprehend. As we approach our 300 birthday, it is important that we include all things that have made New Orleans the great melting pot, not just some of the more politically convenient elements.
The MTC realizes that there are strong feelings on both sides of the monuments removal issue and offers constructive, forward-thinking solutions to this problem. Our three-part solution provides a good precedent to follow if any future monument removal issues arise.
Simply stated, our city and leaders need to practice and promote tolerance and respect for ALL monuments. Selectively denigrating or removing historical icons from any of the city’s heritage groups will prove disastrous.
Secondly, installing interpretive plaques near certain monuments will help bring the understanding and discussion of the monument into a more current context. Interpretive plaques are successfully used with historical items and sites throughout the world.
Some folks seem to think there is an imbalance of monuments dedicated to only a few heritage groups. Erecting new monuments to new or forgotten heroes will help resolve this. The MTC has the professional resources, and has also identified numerous choice locations around our city, to help anyone accomplish this.
New Orleans needs more monuments for our tricentennial, not less.
Pierre A. McGraw
president, Monumental Task Committee Inc.