DETROIT — The Quicken Loans Community Investment Fund announced recently its intent to award a $25,000 grant to the Viola Liuzzo Park Association (VLPA). The money will be used to build a statue in the northwest Detroit park to honor the Detroit civil rights hero murdered in Alabama in 1965. The grant came about after state Rep. Leslie Love ( D-Detroit) took the Quicken Loans Community Investment Fund team on a tour of her district, including the park, last summer.
“Viola Liuzzo is not only a local hero, but a national one. She represented the thousands of men and women who have, and continue to, stand up to racism and oppression and step out of their comfort zone to fight it,” Love said. “People should know Viola Liuzzo’s legacy in the Civil Rights movement. I am so proud and honored to be a part of revitalizing this area in a historical and meaningful way.”
Liuzzo heeded the call of Martin Luther King, Jr. and traveled from her home in Detroit to Selma in the wake of the Bloody Sunday march attempt across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Liuzzo participated in the successful Selma to Montgomery marches and helped with coordination and logistics. While driving back from a trip and shuttling fellow activists to the Montgomery airport, she was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan, who remain at large. The Klan harassed and terrorized her family in Detroit after her death. The city of Detroit created the park in her honor in the 1970s.
The park has long been a focus for Love, who helped secure a $125,000 grant from the Greening of Detroit in 2015 to rejuvenate the park, which is located at the corner of Trojan Avenue and Forrer Street. The grant money from Quicken Loans will be used to construct a monument of Viola Liuzzo by 21-year-old Detroit artist Austen Brantley.
“The installation of a life-sized statue of Viola by renowned young Detroit artist, Austen Brantley means everything,” said Colette Mezza, recording secretary for the VLPA. “It represents Viola’s sacrifice, her legacy, a connection to our civil rights history, and the healing of a family and community. We hope to raise enough money this year to have the artwork installed by 2019.”