Jacksonville News

Photo by Member Mark Krancer, Kram Kran Photo

Photo by Member Mark Krancer, Kram Kran Photo


Date ArticleType
6/26/2024 4:00:00 AM Member News

MEDIA RELEASE: City of Jacksonville, Community Partners Celebrate Rededication of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in LaVilla

The new public space honors the contributions of Jacksonville natives and composers of the Black National Anthem, James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson

Jacksonville, Fla. – (June 27, 2024) – Today, the City of Jacksonville celebrated the rededication of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in the historic LaVilla neighborhood. City leaders and City Council Members, community partners, donors and neighborhood residents came together to honor this historic public space with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

"This rededication of Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing Park honors the reemergence of LaVilla, as this historically rich neighborhood reclaims its place as a thriving hub of arts, culture and community in Jacksonville," said Mayor Donna Deegan. "As we honor the contributions of the Johnson brothers today, we open the doors for new generations to add their voices and perspectives to LaVilla’s living legacy."

Located at 120 Lee Street in Downtown Jacksonville and connected to the Emerald Trail’s LaVilla Link, Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park features a stage overlooking a lifted lawn, gardens, an original sculpture by award-winning, Florida-based artist Brian Owens, historic markers, beautiful landscaping, access to the Emerald Trail and more. Designed by world-renowned landscape architect and MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" recipient Walter Hood, the park serves as a gathering place to honor Jacksonville history and create new memories for years to come.

The park was thoughtfully curated to celebrate the contributions of Jacksonville natives James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, composers of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, which was named by the NAACP the "Black National Anthem." In addition to their roots living and working in Jacksonville, both brothers went on to make significant contributions to the international arts and culture arenas, including James Weldon Johnson gaining national prominence as a civil rights activist and having been appointed the United States Consul to Venezuela, and J. Rosamond Johnson composing more than 200 pieces that were made popular through vaudeville performances in New York Broadway Boulevard venues and Carnegie Hall.

"This park is the result of decades of work to honor the Johnson Brothers and a hymn that is meaningful to so many, including me," said Lloyd Washington, President of the Durkeeville Historical Society. "I would like to see the whole LaVilla area come back to life and have its own voice again, and this park is an important step in that journey."

"The opening of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park is an exciting milestone as we work to create a more welcoming city where residents can learn and honor history while also crafting their own legacy," said Mari Kuraishi, President of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, which helped catalyze the public-private partnership that developed and funded the Park. "After years of collaborating alongside community members to bring this vision to life, we are proud to rededicate this new destination in historic LaVilla." 

The new sculpture by Brian Owens, titled “Calling it Done,” is a departure from the serious tone of traditional memorials as it transports the viewer into a shared moment of musical satisfaction and joy between the Johnson brothers, surrounded by a cast stone piano featuring the lyrics to the hymn.

“The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville was honored to administer the integration of this significant and meaningful public art piece that will truly inspire and enrich our Downtown cultural landscape.” said Diana Donovan, Executive Director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. “Our collaboration with the Jessie Ball duPont Fund focused on creating an imaginative representation of the Johnson brothers’ legacy. ‘Calling it Done’ is an exceptional new addition to our city’s public art portfolio, and a work I hope every citizen will come and enjoy. We will continue to champion the role that the arts play in enriching quality of life, cultural storytelling and the beauty of public spaces, for us all.”

The Park is open for community members to enjoy. The public is also invited to attend a free community celebration on September 14 featuring live entertainment and festivities for guests of all ages. More details will be shared in the coming months at www.levsparkjax.org.

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park was brought to life by a significant public-private partnership including community partners and donors. Community partners include ACON Construction; City of Jacksonville Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services; City of Jacksonville Department of Public Works; the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville; LaVilla Heritage Trail Committee; Downtown Investment Authority; Historic Stanton; Hood Design Studio; Lloyd Washington and the Durkeeville Historical Society; and more. The Park was made possible thanks to generous contributions from partners including the Chartrand Family Foundation, Corner Lot Development Group, EverBank, Florida Blue, the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation, Jacksonville Transportation Authority, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, JWB Construction, Miller Electric Company and Walter Hood.

To learn more about Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park and historic LaVilla, please visit www.levsparkjax.org

Quotes of Support from Partners and Donors

"We are honored to invest in Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park as a way to honor the Johnson brothers’ legacy, and the greater LaVilla neighborhood," said Gary Chartrand on behalf of the Chartrand Family Foundation. "This Park is an opportunity for generations of children to learn about Jacksonville’s dynamic African-American history."

"From the Great Migration and the Chitlin' Circuit to the Civil Rights Movement, Jacksonville and LaVilla have contributed significantly to the development of the state of Florida and the entire nation,” said Ennis Davis, Principal, Community Planning Collaborative. “Lift Ev'ry Voice & Sing Park is one of several important initiatives underway for our community to finally tell and share our story."

"This is about more than the grand opening of a park. It’s about opening another exciting chapter of Downtown Jacksonville’s future, one that prioritizes cultural significance, contextually inspiring design, and collaboration with forward-focused firms like Hood Design Studio," said Jim Citrano, Jr., Chair of the Board for the Downtown Investment Authority. "My hope is that Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park becomes a benchmark—a place where intentionality and investment can meet."

"The creation of Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing Park is an important step in Jacksonville's acknowledgement and celebration of its very rich African-American history,” said Marty Lanahan, President, South Region, First Horizon Bank. “The park, situated where the home of James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson once stood, will honor the two brothers and their indelible contributions to American culture. The First Horizon Foundation is honored to be a small part of bringing it to life and the resurgence of historic LaVilla.”

“Florida Blue is a proud supporter of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park because we understand the role this park plays in honoring the rich legacy of the Johnson brothers, while promoting social connections, a sense of belonging and physical and mental well-being that green spaces bring to a community,” said Tony Jenkins, Florida Blue Market President. “We are thrilled to be a sponsor of this meaningful initiative that aligns with Florida Blue’s mission to help people and communities achieve better health.”

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park is not just a space for recreation, but a living tribute to the Johnson brothers, their enduring legacy and the stories of the people of the once-segregated LaVilla neighborhood,” said Walter Hood, Landscape Designer + Creative Director of Hood Design Studio. “It offers a new perspective on African American culture and history in Jacksonville, preserving precious elements of our built environment that have withstood the test of time. In an era when so much has been erased, what remains becomes even more valuable. The park stands as a beacon of cultural heritage, reminding us of our past while inspiring future generations.”

“We are proud to support this important destination representing Jacksonville’s dynamic Black history and two of our most honored residents, James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson,” said Whitney Meyer, senior vice president and chief community impact officer for the Jacksonville Jaguars. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park is a vital component to the revitalization of the LaVilla neighborhood and key to understanding the past, with a hopeful outlook for an inclusive future.”

“The JTA is proud to support the ongoing revitalization of the historic community of LaVilla,” said JTA CEO Nat Ford. “Projects like the JRTC, the LaVilla Link of the Emerald Trail, and now completion of the Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park symbolize our shared pride and belief in this community.”

“JWB and Corner Lot were honored to be a part of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park.  The celebration and recognition of LaVilla’s history, and critical place in Jacksonville’s history, is so important,” said Alex Sifakis, President of JWB Real Estate Capital. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park is one of the first steps in that recognition, and we are looking forward to continued city and private investments in LaVilla.”

"Community is one of our core values at Miller Electric, and reinvesting in the communities where we work is part of our mission. We are thrilled to celebrate this beautiful new park, a true testament to what can be achieved when a community comes together with a shared vision,” said Henry Brown, CEO of Miller Electric. “This space will not only provide a place for recreation and relaxation, but it will also serve as a cornerstone for fostering connections and enriching lives. Together, we have built more than just a park; we have built a legacy that will bring joy and unity for generations to come.”