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SCC Chosen as Site for Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial

Somerset Community College (SCC) has been chosen as the site for a new memorial designed to honor the many unmarked slave graves throughout Pulaski and surrounding counties. The memorial, called the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial, came about after a group of concerned citizens brought attention to unmarked slave graves. A non-profit grass roots organization, the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial (LCSM) Board, was then created to bring dignity and respect to the final resting place for enslaved Americans in the region.

Slaves MemorialThe memorial, designed by artist Ayokunle Odeleye of Atlanta, Georgia, is a unique piece that will be erected on the Somerset Campus of SCC once funds are obtained. The artwork features a monumental metal sculpture fabricated from stainless steel and standing 20-feet tall. According to the artist, the sculpture is inspired by African decorative boat paddle designs.

The paddle symbolizes water, an important element in the spiritual belief system of African peoples. Crossing a body of water in a boat using a paddle was believed to be part of the deceaseds journey to the next life, said information from LCSM on the sculpture.

We are so proud that Somerset Community College has been chosen as the site for this important cultural memorial, said SCC President and CEO Dr. Jo Marshall. The college is a perfect place for this piece not only because of our commitment to this community, but also because as an institution of higher education, we strive to create an atmosphere of inclusiveness, diversity, learning, open-mindedness and belonging. On our campus, we know that every person is valuable. We are looking forward to honoring the lives of former slaves buried in our area through the construction of this monument on campus.

Fundraising for the memorial is underway. This past summer, a fundraiser was held at the Carnegie Center to kick off the campaign. Most recently, the City of Somerset and the Pulaski County Fiscal Court both pledged $5,000 toward the campaign. The LCSM board has also applied for a $50,000 grant to begin funding the project. In total, the memorial is projected to cost $125,000.

There is no doubt in my mind that we can raise the funds necessary for this endeavor, said Charlie Leveridge, LCSM board president. This project is the only one of its kind in Kentucky and is an important piece of our history. I fully believe private donors, local business and industry partners and others can come together to raise the funds needed to honor the sacrifices these slaves made for us all.

To make a donation to the project, contact Meredith King at (606) 219-8110. The LCSM is a 501(3) non-profit organization. All donations to the project are tax deductible.