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Ribbon-Cutting and Dedication Ceremony for Charlotte Forten Park
September 20, 2019 @ 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm
The City of Salem will host a ribbon cutting ceremony to honor the newly named Charlotte Forten Park located at 289 Derby Street. The ceremony will honor the legacy of Charlotte Forten, an abolitionist, women’s right’s activist, and Salem State University’s first African-American graduate.
In addition to the ribbon cutting, speakers at the event will include Mayor Kim Driscoll, Salem State President John Keenan and Salem State Chief of Staff Nate Bryant. The event will also include readings and performances by Salem State community members and Salem State students and a performance by Fly Kidz. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include a reception during which refreshments and beer and wine will be available to purchase.
The ribbon cutting and performances will take place between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and the celebration continues from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. with additional live performances, food, and beverages.
Charlotte Forten Park was designed through a community-based process by landscape designers Clara Batchelor and Megan Tomkins of CBA Landscape Architects. The contractor for the project was Sumco Eco Contracting. Construction of the park was possible thanks to a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Salem residents chose to name the park after Forten in July when Mayor Driscoll asked residents to weigh in on the process by voting on a slate of proposed names, which included Forten. Charlotte Forten Park was the preferred choice among those who voted.
The roughly 25,000 square foot Charlotte Forten Park, formerly a vacant lot, was constructed with state grant funds and includes a plaza for programs and performances, a harbor-walk around the South River, swing seating facing the water, built-in percussion features, and green space. The park will allow park-goers to connect to Downtown Salem, the Point neighborhood and Salem’s historic waterfront. The park will pay tribute to Forten’s legacy and celebrate all that she achieved for generations to come.
Charlotte Forten was an educator, writer, poet, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist. Forten was originally from Philadelphia where she was brought up in a prominent abolitionist family and her desire for an equal education led her to Salem, Massachusetts, where she was the first African-American to graduate from the Salem Normal School, now Salem State University, with the class of 1856.
Throughout her life, Forten faced inequality due to her race and gender; however, that did not deter her. She used her pen to express her frustrations and advocate for solutions. Her life’s work as a poet and translator showcased her as a leading social justice activist. Forten, who was an advocate for equality for women and people of color, education for all, and for the end of slavery, was also the first northern African-American teacher to go south to teach former slaves.