Crowdfunding Campaign Launched for the “Unified Civic Monuments Project” in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph

Kathleen Achtenberg,
[email protected]

Jennifer Jacobs,
UCMP member
[email protected]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 15, 2023

$50,000 goal to win matching grant through MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places initiative

Rendering of the sculpture “A Seat at the Table” at City Center Park in Benton Harbor.

Rendering of the sculpture “A Seat at the Table” at City Center Park in Benton Harbor courtesy of RootBound

LANSING, Mich. – A public art project 16 years in the making will soon come to fruition and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while also recognizing the unique historic legacies of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. The Unified Civic Monuments Project will be completed through the anticipated success of a crowdfunding campaign, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the African American History and Literature Gallery announced today. The campaign is being offered through the Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by February 15, the project will win a matching grant with funds made possible by MEDC’s Public Spaces Community Places program. For project details and to donate, please visit:

“This project is a collaborative effort that will create two cultural landmarks along a unifying trail between two communities, while also honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contributions to the civil rights movement,” said MEDC Regional Prosperity Managing Director Paula Holtz. “We are pleased to support and provide resources for this project through our Public Spaces Community Places program.”

The Unified Civic Monuments Project is a public art initiative to commemorate social justice, to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to recognize the unique historic legacies of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, located in Southwest Michigan. Public art dedicated to King will be installed in both cities and will include elements representing each city’s distinctive historical significance and civil rights journey.

The monuments are bookends of a Unity Trail that crosses the St. Joseph and Paw Paw Rivers via the Bicentennial Bridge, Blossomland Bridge, and the pedestrian footbridge. Just 1.5 miles apart, these monument sites present an opportunity to learn about the history of the civil rights movement and its importance in both our past and present as we journey towards a more fully realized vision of togetherness. The Unity Trail encourages community members and visitors to walk together and engage with each other in meaningful ways while traversing rivers that once divided them.

“UCMP is so excited at this hour in our race to pass the baton to MEDC’s Public Spaces, Community Places program. After three years of planning and fund-raising for this one-of-a-kind monument project in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, this matching grant will help bring our vision to fruition,” said Sharon Brown, co-director of the African American History & Literature Gallery. “These ‘2 Kings for 2 Cities’ will not only foster a common, but deeper, unity for Benton Harbor and St. Joseph residents but also, compel many others to live in the truth that humanity’s well-being should be equitable, without racial and ethnic disparities.”

UCMP is a project led by the founders of the African American History & Literature Gallery, in partnership with Krasl Art Center, Lake Michigan College and Berrien Community Foundation. This project is supported by the BH/SJ Arts &Culture Social Justice Group, and the cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph.

Public Spaces Community Places is a collaborative effort of the MEDC, the Michigan Municipal League, and Patronicity, in which local residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of strategic projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC. Communities, nonprofits and other business entities can apply at

“The Michigan Municipal League is a firm supporter of placemaking projects happening around our state,” said Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the League. “This project will enrich the lives of everyone who views it, and create a positive impact in the communities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. This is what placemaking is all about.”

The Public Spaces Community Places initiative started in 2014 with MEDC providing matched funding of up to $50,000 for community improvement projects throughout Michigan. As of Nov. 30, 2023, MEDC has provided more than $12.2 million in matching grants. Since the launch of the program, 365 projects have been successful in reaching their goal, with more than $14 million raised from 68,052 individual donors. Communities have a 97 percent success rate in achieving their goals and earning matching funds.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
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