Earlier this morning, the city released renderings of its design plan for an expanded, revamped “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” Park.
The new design, helmed by landscape architect Walter Hood, was created based on “community conversations and feedback” and includes new informational placards, a large, artistic fountain with elevated green space, a replica shotgun house like the one in which James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson grew up, a performance stage overlooking green space, and a garden among other features.
The expansion and redesign of the park, which was originally dedicated by the city in 2015, is part of increased efforts to honor local Black history. The Johnson brothers, who were raised in LaVilla, composed “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” a hymn written by James Weldon Johnson that would become widely recognized as the “Black national anthem.” The city’s oldest park, formerly known as Hemming Park, was renamed earlier this year in honor of James Weldon Johnson.
“The legacy of the Johnson brothers and of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing is an important part of our city’s history and one that we are deeply committed to honoring,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “We are excited to move forward with design plans for Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park as the next step in bringing to life an inclusive community space and a more vibrant LaVilla for generations to come.”
The park, located on the lot where the Johnsons grew up, originally came into existence thanks to the efforts of Durkeeville Historical Society. The expansion project is expected to cost between $2 million and $3 million, with funding split between the city and private contributors such as Vestcor, which will develop townhomes on property adjacent to the park.
“This park will serve as a reminder of how critical LaVilla was for the economic and cultural expansion of Jacksonville,” said Councilman Reggie Gaffney, whose district includes LaVilla. “I am excited to see the momentum around Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park as we continue working to revitalize LaVilla. This project is possible because of the hard work and collaboration of many individuals and organizations who believe that to make Jacksonville better tomorrow, we must always remember what happened yesterday. By blending the past, present, and future we celebrate our city’s unique African American heritage.”
The city will hold a community town hall, facilitated by Jessie Ball duPont Fund, on October 13 to allow the public to learn more about the design plans and to continue the community discussion about the park and its features. To RSVP for that town hall meeting, visit the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-Wf6C0EoQWiahX7uQxY46Q
Construction on the park is expected to begin next fall and will be completed by fall 2022.