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Alberta O. Jones portrait unveiled for new park in California neighborhood

Flora Shanklin, sister of civil rights icon Alberta O. Jones, looks at the recently unveiled portrait of her sister, who was killed in an unsolved murder in 1965. The portrait will be displayed in the Alberta O. Jones Park performance pavilion.
Sylvia Goodman
/
LPM
Flora Shanklin, sister of civil rights icon Alberta O. Jones, looks at the recently unveiled portrait of her sister, who was killed in an unsolved murder in 1965. The portrait will be displayed in the Alberta O. Jones Park performance pavilion.

Across the street from what will soon be the Alberta O. Jones Park, the Parks Alliance of Louisville held an inaugural celebration and unveiled a new portrait of the civil rights icon.

The Parks Alliance of Louisville held its first Alberta O. Jones Park Day celebration Saturday in the California neighborhood. The first portion of the park is midway through construction, and the Parks Alliance said the first five acres are scheduled to be completed in November.

At the celebration, Parks Alliance CEO and President Brooke Pardue unveiled the portrait of Jones that will stand in the heart of the park in the performance pavilion.

Jones was Kentucky’s first Black female prosecutor and a civil rights icon. She helped thousands of Black Louisvillians register to vote and rented voting machines to teach them how. Jones also led the effort to force Louisville’s city government to begin hiring Black employees. She also was a mentor to Muhammad Ali early in his career and wrote his first contracts. In 1965, Jones was killed in an unsolved murder when she was 34 years old.

The painting will be translated into a digital print made up of community members’ portraits. Over the next month, people can submit a photo to be one of the 2,000 faces represented in the mural.

“Our goal with this photo mosaic is to literally enable everyone to see themselves in Alberta's amazing life and quest for social justice,” Pardue said. “This idea of seeing ourselves literally in Alberta Jones, and then carrying on that fight, I think is going to be phenomenal to bring the whole community together in this way.”

Louisville Metro Council member Jecorey Arthur, who attended the unveiling and whose district encompasses the new park, said he hopes Jones’ legacy inspires others to continue the same fight Jones started.

“When you step foot in this park, and you read Alberta Jones's name, when you hear her name, say her name,” Arthur said. “And ask yourself, what are you doing to continue that fight? To continue that struggle?”

In a 2021 Parks for All study, the Alliance found that California has one of the greatest needs for more parks in the city.

Pardue said the Alberta O. Jones park is the first step in addressing that inequity. It is also the first park that the Alliance has created from scratch. The property had been vacant since severe flooding in 2009.

“The California community has driven every bit of every decision that's been made, and we couldn't ask for better partners,” Pardue said.

The Alliance is soliciting feedback from the community on what should be done with the park’s remaining 15 acres. In a booth at the front of the celebration, Parks Alliance members offered community members the chance to vote on what things they would like to see in the remainder of the park.

Dre Smith, who works for the nonprofit Amped Music Academy, attended the celebration and grew up in Louisville’s West End.

“I ran these streets, these neighborhoods as a kid. For the bulk of my experience here, it’s been a lot of violence,” Smith said. “So seeing the community come out to put something productive here and something that we can be proud of and that the youth can take part in is a big deal.”

Smith also took a picture and sent it in to be a part of the photo mosaic at the park. He said figures like Jones represent all trailblazers who work to improve their communities and “lift their people up.”

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.