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Artist La’Ford unveils Courageous Twelve monument design

Bill DeYoung



A rendering of Ya La'Ford's Courageous Twelve sculpture, to be installed at Orange Station. Images provided.

St. Petersburg’s next major public art project, which will debut sometime in 2023, will honor the 1960s police officers known as the Courageous Twelve.

In 1965, all 12 of St. Petersburg’s Black uniformed officers (out of a force of more than 250) filed a lawsuit against the city, charging discrimination on numerous levels.

The landmark civil rights case was settled in their favor three years later.

RELATED STORY: Vintage St. Pete: The Courageous Twelve

Noted sculptor and painter Ya La’Ford was commissioned last year to create a memorial to the Courageous Twelve in the courtyard of Orange Station, the $80 million condominium/retail project now rising on the site of the old St. Pete police headquarters at 1302 Central Ave., in the Edge District.

The 20-foot sculpture, made of bronze, concrete and stainless steel, includes La’Ford’s signature geometric patterns, along with relief busts of all 20 officers. It’s an open, walk-through monument with a roof designed to look like a policeman’s cap, with badge.

“It’s kind of a metaphor for not only did they protect the community, but they protected these ideals,” the artist explains. “All of us are standing on their shoulders – they were not just a time and a space, but a learning lesson throughout time, I think.

“It’s symbolic that the cap is raised over our heads. They’re continuing to protect our citizens, and promoting the values of justice. And communicating our rich and storied past, while creating and charting an important future.”

Orange Station developers committed to the memorial project as part of their arrangement with the city. It’s co-funded by the developer, the city and private contributions.

La’Ford says she isn’t certain when the project will begin to take shape, as Orange Station is still under construction. She will, however, lead a community program, discussing the Courageous Twelve and the art, at the site during Black History Month in February.

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  1. Avatar

    Maria Scruggs

    November 18, 2022at4:11 pm

    I am excited to see the project that many in the African community fought for. It is unfortunate that we were excluded from the development of the project.

  2. Avatar

    Shirley Hayes

    November 23, 2022at7:24 am

    I wish that the Black Community had input into the design. I guess it is business as usual, give us whatever ‘You’ want us to have. Thanks for even allowing a memorial for those Brave ‘Brothers’.

  3. Avatar

    Theresa Jones

    December 3, 2022at6:32 pm

    I’m so pleased that an African American artist has been commissioned to design and construct the sculpture commemorating the Courageous 12. And I am equally pleased that Mr. Jackson, the last living member of the Courageous 12, and other African American residents were consulted by the artist and the City’s Arts Advisory Committee.

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