Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef announced the county is building a civil rights monument to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rockland’s Commission on Human Rights.
The monument plans unveiled on Tuesday, which was Universal Human Rights Day, incorporate a granite retaining wall featuring a quote used by Martin Luther King Jr., a waterfall and a base in the shape of Rockland County. There will be an area to contemplate and several placards describing civil rights events on a local and national level.
The memorial will be located by the entrance to Dutch Garden and adjacent to the county courthouse on South Main Street in New City. County Human Rights Commissioner Ram Nagubandi said it was an appropriate location since the courthouse was the site of the decision to integrate the Hillburn schools.
Nagubandi said despite the existence of the human rights commission and Rockland’s efforts to promote and protect civil rights, there is still discrimination and racism in the county.
“50 years we have been protecting the rights of people in Rockland County,” he said. “In the last two dozen years or so we were more active, more proactive. And one thing we could say is we are not only fighting discrimination but we are also being seen by the respondents as trustworthy and fair. We fight hard but we are fair.”
Vanderhoef said the memorial would be completed in March or April. It is being considered as part of the improvement to Dutch Garden and he said would not cost the county additional money. Planning began during the spring of 2013. Architect Jan Degenshein of Nyack donated his time to design the memorial.
“I don’t think any of us are exempt from discrimination,” Degenshein said. “We’ve all observed it. We’ve all felt it. And for me this is an opportunity to express a reminder of what still has to be done. We’ve come a long way and we have a long way to go.”
The quote inscribed on the wall appears in the Bible, “Let justice well up as waters, and righteousness and like a mighty stream.”
Commission member Willie Trotman, who is also the president of the Spring Valley NACCP, said, “This is a step in the right direction. Let us look for equality for all.”
Incoming County Executive Elect Ed Day attended the ceremony and said his administration will continue to be vigilant to fight against discrimination.
The commission’s board members include Chairperson Lyn Davidson, Vice Chairperson Vivian England, Antoinette Bennett, Linda Berns, Benjamin Breskin, Dr. Roger Davis, Ted DeGuzman, Nancy Genova, Nemesio A. Montenegro, Daniel Salmon, Debbra Stolarik, Esq. and Willie Trotman.