At an ANC 6D meeting Tuesday night, commissioners considered a request by the Washington Interdependence Council to endorse the addition of “Banneker Memorial” to the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station. It would be only fair, WIC’s Peggy Seats argued: The southern end of the promenade over which the station sits was designated in 1971 as Benjamin Banneker Park, and Congress authorized the building of a memorial to Banneker—somewhere, not necessarily there—in 1998.
But raising the $25 million it would take to build the memorial has proven difficult. The authorization has since expired, and although Senator Roland Burris has introduced new legislation, it’s unlikely to pass this session. Currently, there is still no memorial in “Banneker Park,” and few people even realize it’s there—hence the Metro request.
“There’s no reference to it until you get there, and that’s part of the problem,” Seats told the commissioners.
Commission chairman Ron McBee, while expressing support for the memorial, wasn’t interested in the name change—with no physical destination, it’s not relevant to the Metro system, he argued.
“This is a wayfinding issue,” McBee said.
In explaining his rationale for opposing the change, McBee also quoted extensively from a letter sent to the commission by Peter May, Associate Regional Director for Lands, Resources and Planning at the National Park Service, who said that nothing was happening on that parcel anytime soon. Furthermore, he wrote, the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission had recommended that the memorial be placed within the L’Enfant Promenade, rather than on the Overlook.
“Therefore, in our view, a proposal to add a Banneker Memorial designation to the L’Enfant Plaza Metro would be inappropriate at this time,” the letter reads.
Seats, needless to say, was not happy. The memorial’s supporters, she wrote afterwards in an email, were “very disturbed at this biased position which certainly does not reflect the notion of working towards a more inclusive composition of monuments in the nation’s capitol, not to mention the discrediting of our civic agency as the administrators of the commemorative effort.”
So, still no recognition for America’s first black man of science—and all hopes ride on Senator Burris.
It’s probable that I will be writing more about this in the coming week. As usual, information welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.