Three St. Anne’s-Belfield seniors hoped to draw attention to the current positioning of a nearly hidden plaque that commemorates the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Vinegar Hill that was razed by urban renewal in the ’60s. The students presented a petition to City Council February 1.
Christopher Woodfolk, 17, says he and his classmates created the petition as part of a final project for their issues of race and gender course. During the course, he learned the history of Vinegar Hill and took a trip downtown to see the neighborhood’s marker.
Describing the plaque as barely visible, low to the ground and hidden behind a trashcan and a planter, he says, “For such a vibrant African-American community, we thought that was a poor way of commemorating it.”
The team, demanding the city to take action in their presentation, wants the trashcan removed, as well as a replacement of the plaque with a bigger, more visual “interpretive sign depicting the history of Vinegar Hill.”
“If young people take anything away, it’s that they can create change,” Woodfolk says. “You’re really never too young.”
With over 400 signatures, Woodfolk said he hoped the petition would garner their goal of 500 by the end of the night. It did.
But that wasn’t the only good news for the students. After they presented and the audience erupted in a round of applause and a standing ovation, City Manager Maurice Jones said the city is already planning to replace the sign, adding that the historic resources committee, in conjunction with the Office of Human Rights, has been working on the project for several months.
“How’s that for action?” Jones said.
Updated February 2 at 10:30am following the City Council meeting.