Walk A Mile In My Shoes: A Civil Rights Memorial

Walk a Mile in My Shoes — Los Angeles Explorers Guild

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

A Civil Rights Memorial

In Baldwin Hills, you’ll come across two monuments sitting in the middle of traffic islands that celebrate the victories of the Civil Rights Movement.

Walk a Mile Indeed: Two Monuments in One

Walk a Mile In My Shoes consists of a pair of monuments that sit, as indicated by the title of the piece, one mile apart along Obama Boulevard (formerly named Rodeo Road; it was renamed in May 2019) in Baldwin Hills.

The two-site monument was placed in 2014 to celebrate a number of significant moments in the history of Civil Rights in the United States, including the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, signed into law by then-President Johnson on July 2, 1964.

Being an easy 20 minute stroll along Obama Boulevard from each other, the two monuments also thematically honor the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the 1965 March on Selma, both led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The two sites have similar but slightly different themes. The first site, the smaller of the pair, focuses on 60 notable individuals who participated in Dr. King’s Civil Rights marches.

The second site, which is much larger than its companion, drills down to the local level. It showcases 35 civil rights pioneers from the Los Angeles area. Some are well-known throughout the world and others are of more local renown, but each has had a significant impact on the civil rights movement in greater L.A.

Here’s a look at the two sites and what you’ll find at each monument.

Site One: Walk A Mile In My Shoes — Global Heroes

Located at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Obama Blvd

Walk a Mile in My Shoes — Los Angeles Explorers Guild
The bronze shoes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Crenshaw. Photo from the author’s collection.

The main feature of this traffic island is a seven-foot round diameter concrete monument topped with a pair of bronze shoes. The shoes are bronze replicas cast from the most famous shoes worn by Dr. King — the pair he was photographed taking off on his visit to the Rāj Ghāt memorial for Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi. The real shoes can be seen on display in Atlanta’s King Center.

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Along with the shoes, the platform features a number of quotes attributed to Dr. King and photographs of the March on Selma and Dr. King removing the featured pair of shoes at the Gandi memorial.

Set in colorful, handmade concrete squares around the monument are color photographs, reproduced on ceramic, of shoes worn by famous individuals and civil rights leaders from around the world who participated in the Civil Rights marches, including Sidney Poitier, John Lewis, Lena Horne, Dr. Maya Angelou, and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes — Los Angeles Explorers Guild
Photos of famous shoes. Photo from the author’s collection.

A pair of bronze plaques on the monument offer up a short biography of each owner of the shoes displayed on the tiles.

Site Two: Walk A Mile In My Shoes — Local Heroes

Located at Jefferson Blvd and Obama Blvd

Dr. King’s bronze work boots in Baldwin Hills. Photo from the author’s collection.

Similar to its companion monument just a mile way, this monument features a round concrete platform topped by a pair of shoes. This time the shoes are a pair of work books, reminiscent of the style Dr. King would wear during his marches.

This site is significantly larger than the first site. It takes up the entire traffic island, complete with swales of grasses, a winding walkway, and a number of benches for reflection.

Full view of the Walk a Mile In My Shoes site at Jefferson Blvd. Photo from the author’s collection.

In addition to the main concrete monument, the site features 35 pinkish concrete pillars, each showcasing a different individual known for helping to promote civil rights in Los Angeles.

Some notables include César Chavez, former City Council President Herb Wesson (council member for the 10th District representing Baldwin Hills), civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, muralist Judy Baca (a favorite of us here at the Los Angeles Explorers Guild; Baca is the artist behind the murals The Great Wall of Los Anglees and Hitting the Wall), utopia-focused architect Daveed Kapoor, and current mayoral candidate Karen Bass.

Four of the 35 pairs of shoes at the Jefferson Blvd monument. Clockwise from top left: Daveed Kapoor, Karen Bass, César Chavez, and Judy Baca. Photo from the author’s collection.

This site also includes a six benches placed along the walkway. Each bench is inscribed with part of a poem written by Pasadena poet Beverly LaFontaine titled, appropriately, Walk a Mile in My Shoes. The benches are intended to hold two people, and the text of the poem is lined up so that people sitting next to one another can each read a portion of the poem to the person sitting next to them.

The two sites officially opened on June 26, 2014 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. At the time, it was the only monument in the city of Los Angeles honoring the Civil Rights Movement.

The monuments are the work of artist Artist Kim Abeles, who specializes in multimedia art with her work often centering around environmental concerns, feminism, and societal issues. She is most famous for her work Smog Collectors, a collection of images made using airborne particulate matter (smog) and printed on a variety of surfaces, including a series of presidential plates.

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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