Hurricane Isabel Strikes blow to a National Attraction
The latest challenge for the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial came in the form of Isabel, one of the worst hurricanes to hit the Chesapeake Bay Region since records have been kept. Floods from the September 18, 2003 storm covered the Memorial’s four statues, ten Story Wall bollards, 14-foot diameter Compass Rose, and plaque pedestal. Leonard Blackshear, President of the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation said “It took twenty years to get it there, and only one day to nearly destroy it. The fact that it is still standing is a testament to its strong and everlasting message of universal hope and healing during times of great struggle.” “Nothing,” says Blackshear, “will destroy the message.”
The Memorial, which is seen by someone million visitors a year, will require some significant restoration to remove the salty seawater and refinish the bronze surfaces. The Memorial’s stone surfaces and electrical lighting also need work.
The repair is just one of the many challenges which have faced the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation during the Memorial development. The Memorial represents a major breakthrough for the people of a town which sits 45 miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line — a town that is leading people from both within and outside the town have managed to build a Memorial “like no other.” The Kinte-Haley Memorial is the only monument in the United States commemorating the name and place of arrival of an enslaved African — Kunta Kinte, made famous in Alex Haley’s Pulitzer-prize winning book Roots.
Donations to help in the restoration process are being accepted at PO Box 6782, Annapolis, Maryland, 21401. The Foundation is also looking for local volunteers to assist in the cleanup process and support other ongoing activities of the organization. “We appreciate the outpouring of support and concern we have received regarding the Memorial. It is a treasure which, with the help of our many supporters from around the globe, we hope to protect and share with people for many, many, years to come,” says Blackshear.