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The Ida B. Wells Monument project should have been done by now.

After all, Wells’ legacy of social activism is recognized worldwide, particularly her writings that exposed the lies about why black men were being lynched in the South.

Wells was not only a fearless journalist; she was an important figure in the women’s suffrage movement.

Yet somehow this trailblazer keeps getting overlooked.

I grew up in a public housing high-rise across the street from the Ida B. Wells Homes, and I don’t recall any teacher ever mentioning Wells’ name.

In fact, by the time I learned who Wells was, much of public housing had become such a haven for gangs and drugs, I couldn’t imagine anyone seeing honor in naming public housing after legendary civil rights activists.

OPINION

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But Michelle Duster, Wells’ great-granddaughter, is determined that the demise of this public housing complex will not mean the end of public recognition for Ida B. Wells.

“There is an incredible dearth of representations of women and African American women, particularly, when it comes to monuments and public recognition,” Duster said in a telephone interview Monday.

In 2011, the Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee came up with the idea of creating a lasting monument to Wells on the site of the former public housing development.

In the interim, the Chicago Housing Authority leveled the blocks of public housing in Bronzeville that bore Wells’ name.

“Ida B. Wells Homes stood for over 60 years as a substantial housing community. For that to be eliminated and not replaced with anything is just unconscionable,” Duster said. “There needs to be something to remember this housing community existed. Ida B. Wells’ name should not be disappearing from our city.”

Richard Hunt, the internationally renowned Chicago-born sculptor, whose work is on display in several public spaces in the city, agreed to create the monument.

But the project stalled when a major funding source fell through. The committee recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise the $100,000 needed to begin the monument. Duster estimates will cost about $300,000.

That Indiegogo page raised $2,438 in four days.

“Even though [Ida] wasn’t born and raised in Chicago, she spent most of the latter part of her career here. I feel this city needs to claim her as a daughter,” Duster said.

The plan is for the monument to be located on a median strip at 37th and Langley, a short distance from the Ida B. Wells House, a national landmark.

“That way, people doing a walking or biking tour in the area can easily go between monument and the Ida B. Wells House a few blocks away,” Duster pointed out.

“That is important to give context to who she was. Three generations of our family lived in Bronzeville. Honestly, I feel the whole history of Bronzeville needs to be preserved.”

Ironically, Wells’ legacy as an activist may have even more relevancy today than it did five years ago when the committee started planning for a monument.

“African Americans are still fighting to be treated with an equal level of respect by law enforcement, equal housing, equal education and all the things Ida was fighting for in her day,” Duster pointed out.

Go to www.indiegogo.com or to www.idabwellsmonument.org to contribute.

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