“A Monumental Journey” honors leaders like Elijah Cummings

October 17, 2019  |   News,   World
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October 17, 2019: We mourn the passing of The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings, renowned civil rights icon who prevailed in the face of adversity against all the odds. He was a powerful politician who spent more than 20 years in Congress and 16 in the Maryland House of Delegates. ‘Our country has lost a giant,’ has been repeated throughout the day.

“Among the many accolades he received throughout his storied life, his legacy of championing issues, facing injustice head-on and speaking truth to power will forever be a part of his greatest contributions,” said Leon W. Russell, Chairman, NAACP Board of Directors.

Let us celebrate Elijah Cummings’ legacy.

In Des Moines, I look at the counterbalancing weight and force—the physical equilibrium—of the gigantic black sculpture, called A Monumental Journey. Its powerful physical and poetic expression reminds me of this great man. Rising 30-feet in height, A Monumental Journey is sited on the east side of Hansen Triangle Park, along the Riverwalk in downtown Des Moines.  Each NBA founder is noted by inscribing their names in a continuous black ring circling the artwork.


The public art project “A Monumental Journey” honors the courage of 12 African-American lawyers who founded the National Bar Association in Des Moines in 1925. These pioneering attorneys were fully dedicated to civil rights, justice and equality in the legal system.

The story being told by Kerry James Marshall is highly relevant to our current historical moment. It is also relevant to Elijah Cummings. Not only does it touch on the principle themes of justice in the face of systems of oppression, but also it is about conversation among diverse people—an indispensable activity in our contemporary political discourse.  A Monumental Journey is a testimony to courageous people, who were committed to working vigorously for freedom and justice for black people and, by extension, all people. By recognizing their heroic efforts with this public art project, we can imagine our future and continue to forge our path.