Back in October I informed my listeners and readers about a Kalamazoo Commission meeting when they discussed what they should do about the “racist” interpretations of the Fountain of the Pioneers in Bronson Park.  The Commissioners did not vote on a motion regarding the statue by the Mayor said the commission “will need to figure out what it wants to do”.

We now have an update to that issue, according to reporting by Mlive, Kalamazoo’s City Manager Jim Ritsema in a statement by him dated March 1st stated that he is recommending that the statue be removed from the Park.  The City Manager stated:

This recommendation is not made lightly and we understand that not everyone will agree…Our position is that Bronson Park and the entire city of Kalamazoo must be a welcoming place for everyone - and our front porch is open to all.

He went on to say that the fountain does not align with the goal of the city to be inclusive.  The City Manager stated:

What really resonated with me is the work we're doing with the Foundation for Excellence and shared prosperity, and our aspirations for racial healing and equity in this community…(We want to) demonstrate our seriousness of that and that we're committed to do that work. I think this is a good first step.

The fountain depicts a Native American in headdress standing face-to-face with a settler.  Some residents of Kalamazoo believe that the statue “celebrates the violent removal of indigenous peoples from Kalamazoo”.  Others believe that the statue is a reminder of Kalamazoo’s history as well as our country's harsh treatment of Native Americans.

What do you believe the statue stands for and what should be done with the statue?

The recommendation was written to the Kalamazoo City Commission and it is now up to them to vote on what should occur.  The City Commission will now have to vote on whether the statue should be removed, what should happen to the statue, what funds will need to be allocated to remove the statue, where would those funds come from and what would they replace the statue with?

What would happen to the fountain is unclear, because of the cost involved and who may actually want the statue. We already know that the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum both have stated that both really do not have the required space to take the statue and display it at their sites.

The Mlive article states that the most economical option would be to demolish the entire fountain complex, they estimate that cost to between $75,000 to $100,000.

People have already donated money to repair the fountain, in fact it is reported that 34 donors have already gave $515,000 to fund repairs to the fountain.

The staff report states that people who have already donated to fund the repairs of the fountain could request for their donation’s to be returned.

The City Manager stated:

We hope that people would come around and realize the larger picture here in the times we're in, but if they don't want to donate or want their donations back, we'll certainly honor that…There is a little risk of the credibility of (the city) in terms of fundraising.

The question really is not only centered on this statue.  The bigger picture is whether the City Manager and Commission would actually entertain the removal of any city statue or similar structure be removed if a group of people believe it is offense to them.

Is that not the bigger question and concern?

What are your thoughts?

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