The late Rev. Willard Durant and his wife, Rosemary Durant, were tireless community advocates and leaders who helped to influence and better the lives of residents of all ages in the city, particularly community members on the West Side.
In recognition of their longstanding service to the community, a growing effort, led by Eddie Taylor, executive director and founder of S.E.E.D (Social Education Engaging Diversity) Network/ManUp Initiative, is underway to rename Pitt Park to “Rosemary and Rev. Willard Durant Park.”
To date, there are more than 1,000 signatures culled from petitions circulated at Third Thursday events, the closing ceremony for the Marilyn Hamilton Literacy Program, and an online petition started on Change.org. The proposed change is slated to be included on the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and will be then be referred to the Parks Commission for further review; the Parks Commission will meet later this month. A park name change requires a majority endorsement by the Parks Commission, said Jim McGrath, Park and Open Space Program Manager.
“I can’t think of a better community building initiative,” said Mayor Bianchi, who fully supports the proposed change. “I think it preserves the legacies of the Durants, and recognizes people of faith who gave of themselves. They were regular, yet extraordinary people, who had a tremendous impact on the West Side and the entire community.”
Taylor says he plans to attend the council meeting and share his sentiments during the council’s open microphone session.
The Durants community involvement was far reaching; for 25 years, Willard and Rosemary, as executive director and program director, respectively, served the many needs of the community at the Christian Center on the West Side. Rev. Durant also served as pastor for Price Memorial A.M.E. Zion church. Rosemary and Willard Durant passed away in 2010 and 2013, respectively.
“Hopefully, the name change will help kids to know there is a legacy for them,” said Taylor, who cited the longstanding impact of the Durants in the community.
The proposed name change is a specific project organized through the recently formed ManUp Initiative, which seeks to foster visible engagement and participation among men in the community; ManUp is a subset of the S.E.E.D. Network, an organization centered on bettering the lives of community members through a host of projects.