The Say Their Names memorial, a traveling display to honor African-Americans killed by police brutality and other acts of social injustice, made its way to Emancipation Park in Houston, on Monday, Sept. 28, and Houstonians came out to observe the solemn exhibit and consider its implications for their community and the nation at large.
Joy and Elise Proctor put together the concept in Portland, Oregon, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The two women say the idea behind the memorial “is to facilitate conversation around systemic racism while honoring those whose lives have been taken by it.”
The commemorative display contains over 230 faces and names of Black people who were killed. Almost 60 pedestals are adorned with flowers to showcase four images on each one.
Houston rapper and philanthropist Trae the Truth helped bring the memorial to Houston after observing it Dallas. He called on Ramon Manning, the board chairman of Emancipation Park Conservancy, to help bring his vision to life at the historic park.
Organizers say the exhibit is a way to grieve with families of victims and show respect for those who died too soon. “I think this is a sad situation that we have to put up memorials like this to draw attention to these tragedies,” Manning said on Sept. 30.
Manning says the traveling exhibit should light a fire under everyone who attends. “I think looking at how we can use our collective influence in the political construct to shape and change policy is the best way, in my opinion, to keep these folks’ memory alive so this doesn’t continue to happen.”
Attendees at the park agreed that the display serves as a wake-up call, not only locally but also nationally. “The things that we have to encounter as African-Americans, we have it twice as hard as any race. It’s time for us to come together,” and observer named Kay said.
Revis Gaither saw the exhibit as a call to action. He thinks it should encourage everyone to vote. “Not just putting up murals, or Black Lives Matter, we need actual change,” Gaither expressed. “It needs to come from Congress. It needs to come from our elected officials.”
The memorial will be open to view in the Houston park from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 13.