The Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions held its annual meeting and hosted an MLK Remembrance Program Saturday, Jan. 23. Citizens interested in the progress of the UCAC's U.S. Colored Troops Memorial at Lancaster Park got a glimpse of the centerpiece soldier when sculptor Gary Casteel revealed his work.
UCAC Citizenship of the Year Award Recipient Idiola Shubrooks was delighted to see a portion of the finished project and told the crowd the completion of the memorial would be, "a great day in history for St. Mary's County."
Casteel shared his inspiration and dedication to the memorial, adding his thoughts on the true-to-life colored troop he will create, calling him, "a true hero that experienced life before and after slavery." The sculptor told TheBAYNET.com he was proud to be commissioned for the project and said, "Not only will it endow the Black community with a sense of pride for their collective civil war heritage but will also encourage them to continue to search out those important pieces of the past that makes them what they are today, prominent members of a strong, vibrant culture that contributes to the overall experience of St. Mary’s County, Md."
Active fundraising to collect the estimated $200,000 for the project's completion is on-going and the committee hopes the monument will be erected in the fall of 2010. UCAC President Nathaniel Scroggins acknowledged the county's contribution "for the place to put it," an in-kind donation of park space.
SMC Commissioner President Jack Russell accepted and urged continued dedication, saying, "When we can wrap our arms around an issue, great things can get done."
Scroggins recognized the dedication and many volunteer work hours of project supporters like Merideth Taylor, who created a documentary on the integration of Great Mills high School, and Bob Lewis, who was instrumental in collecting oral histories, now available at public libraries and College of Southern Maryland.
Vice President and son of UCAC's founder, Mike Brown, said that last year's Juneteenth Celebration was the most successful ever and indicated volunteers are needed for the 2010 event, June 21.