Statue Honoring Shirley Chisholm Coming to Burial Cemetery in New York

In Summary

A statue in honor of trailblazer Shirley Chisholm, which was selected for its “thoughtful symbolism,” will soon be installed at the mausoleum where she is buried in New York. 

Shirley Chisholm, a political activist and icon, will soon have a statue dedicated to her life and legacy at Forest Lawn Cemetery’s Birchwood Mausoleum, where she is buried in New York, per Democratic State Senator Sean Ryan

Artist Julia Bottoms was commissioned to create the monument, which depicts Chisholm standing before a pedestal emblazoned with the 1972 Democratic National Convention’s logo, her hand lifted high in the air displaying a peace sign. 

RELATED: Bill introduced to have statue of Shirley Chisholm placed outside of Capitol 

A plaque on the podium’s side bears Chisholm’s famous quote, “Bring a folding chair if they don’t offer you a seat at the table.” A foldable chair is propped against the podium’s side, offering a symbolic reference to the quote. 

Bottoms is a Buffalo native, according to Sen. Ryan, receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Buffalo before moving on to Albright-Knox Northland as an artist-in-residence. 

According to a press release, “Bottoms’ concept is designed to evoke emotion and inspire reflection through a series of elements that reference Chisholm’s life and legacy.” 

The artist described being chosen for the project as a “deep honor” because she will be honoring a woman whose work “has opened doors for me.” 

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“I live in the reality of Shirley Chisholm’s vision for the future: a future in which Black women bring seats to tables that the world thought they’d never have a place at,” she said. “Shirley sparked the imagination of women everywhere when she made her historic run. Seeing her boldly try for that which had not yet been done echoes here in 2022 with my own work.”  

Bottoms continued, “As a Black woman in the fine arts world, my art has fought to create representation where it has been lacking. … So it is with deep gratitude to Chisholm and the other trailblazers who have preceded me that I begin work on this incredible project.” 

She added that she hopes that each project she works on will inspire the next generation, as she intends to lead the road for future generations of women, just as Chisholm’s life and legacy paved the way for her. 

Chisholm, a New York native, made history in 1968 when she became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress. She was also the first African American and first woman to seek the nomination for president. She died in 2005 after suffering health issues as a result of a series of strokes. 

RELATED: Josephine Baker Hailed as First Black Woman Honored at Panthéon in Paris 

The statue will be installed near the mausoleum this fall and will capture “[Shirley Chisholm’s] legacy, her impact on our community, and her demonstration that women – particularly Black women – are capable of anything; even (and especially) if it has never been done before,” per the press release.

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