African-American Museum Wants to Preserve Cudell Gazebo, Cancel Demolition

click to enlarge SAM ALLARD / SCENE
Sam Allard / Scene
A curator at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has written a letter to Cleveland's law department asking the city to postpone the demolition of the gazebo at Cudell Recreation Center.

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed at the gazebo by Cleveland Police officer Timothy Loehmann in November, 2014, and some local demonstrators don't want to see the incident sanitized.

The city announced Friday that it would begin disassembling the gazebo this week. A press release said the site was no longer required for "evidential purposes." Due to poor lighting at Cudell, the gazebo has also historically been home to late-night criminal activity.

But the NMAAHC, part of the Smithsonian institution and slated for construction this fall, has asked for 60 days to "finalize discussions" about options for the gazebo's historic preservation.

In the letter to Cleveland Law Director Barbara Langhenry, the NMAAHC's Senior History Curator, William S. Pretzer, said that he'd been in coordination with Black Lives Matter and that preserving the gazebo is important, given its role in contemporary African-American history. 

The Rice family's lawyer, Subodh Chandra, confirmed that the family supports the concept of historic preservation. 

Monday morning, protesters gathered at Cudell, expecting demolition to be underway bright and early. There was some misconception about when, exactly, the demolition would take place.

City spokesman Dan Williams referred Scene back to the Friday press release, which indicated only that the dis-assembly would begin this week. The lack of specificity led several demonstrators to speculate that the city wanted to tear down the structure "on the sly." 

Last week, Chandra had said that Samaria Rice was aligned with the city in her desire to see the gazebo go, provided a memorial to Tamir was built in its place. 

Shelly Gracon, who founded the Butterfly Project, a program to help kids in the neighborhood cope with Tamir's death, said she's also fully supportive of a memorial. She'd like to extend the garden that was built last year adjacent to the gazebo, and wants to ensure that any plans have the endorsement of the Rice family. 

Gracon said her organization's plan had been to unveil a memorial on Tamir's birthday, June 25th, but that they won't be able to move forward until they have some sense of the city's plans.

"My view is that this is a sacred space," Gracon told Scene at Cudell on Monday afternoon. "And it needs to be treated that way." 

Gracon said that she thought the city's press release was "impersonal," and that if the city intends to turn the gazebo area into grass, it's going to be a "mudpit" before any memorial can be erected.

Samaria Rice will speak Wednesday at Kent State's annual May 4 Commemoration, marking the day in 1970 when the National Guard opened fire on demonstrators there, killing four. 
click to enlarge SAM ALLARD / SCENE
Sam Allard / Scene

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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