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Cincinnati’s first statue of a named woman honors civil rights activist Marian Spencer


By Rachel Trent, CNN

Historical statues dot the landscape of Cincinnati, Ohio, but the city has been notably lacking any that feature a named woman. Until now.

A new statue to be unveiled Sunday honors Marian Spencer, the first Black woman to be elected to the Cincinnati City Council.

Spencer also served as vice mayor and fought for the desegregation of Coney Island and YWCA summer camps and pools nationwide, according to a Cincinnati Parks news release. The life-sized sculpture will be unveiled Sunday night at John G. & Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park.

It shows the civil rights pioneer with two young children, holding the hand of one — and extending her other hand to park visitors. It’s one of the city’s first interactive statues, the news release said.

“People can join hands with the sculpture so they can hold hands and be part of Marian’s legacy,” Tom Tsuchiya, who created the piece with Gina Erardi, told CNN affiliate WCPO. “And continue her civil rights fight.”

The words “hold hands and unite” are written at the base of the sculpture, Tsuchiya said.

Spencer was also the first Black president of the Woman’s City Club of Greater Cincinnati in 1970.

Woman’s City Club member and Marian Spencer Statue Committee Chair Alice Schneider proposed the statue in 2019. Spencer died later that year at age 99.

“There was no statue of a named woman in Cincinnati, so we wanted a statue of a woman who would exemplify the virtues and issues of the city and be an example to show young people how to get things accomplished,” Schneider said.

She told WCPO the committee charged with raising funds for the project ended up raising about $175,000, passing the goal of $125,000 with much of that coming from small donations from people who knew Spencer.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed the unveiling by a year, according to the affiliate.

Cincinnati Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, who knew Spencer personally, said, “She really believed in justice and her whole life was about fighting for justice. But she did it in a way that made people love her and really want to work with her.”

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