One year ago today, September 24th, 2017 during the mayoral term of Mayor Edward Kennedy, the Cambodian Refugee Monument was dedicated at Lowell City Hall. The monument was the result of a years-long process led by members of the local Cambodian American community who raised the funds to pay for the production and installation of the monument.
Here are Mayor Kennedy’s remarks from this historic day:
Thank you all for coming here today for this very special day in the City of Lowell and in particular within Lowell’s Cambodian community. Today we dedicate the Khmer Refugee Monument on the grounds of JFK Plaza in front of Lowell City Hall. I am proud to celebrate the dual meaning of this important memorial.
It is first and foremost a tribute to the tens of thousands of Cambodian refugees throughout the world. From 1975 to 1979 over two million Cambodian lives were lost during the Khmer Rouge genocide. The refugees depicted in this monument are a reflection of the persistence and resiliency of those survivors who were able to escape the atrocities of the Killing Fields as well as a somber remembrance of those who were lost.
The artwork on the monument was designed by Lowell’s own Yary Livan. Yary is one of perhaps only three Cambodian master ceramists to have survived the 1975 Khmer Rouge genocide and the only one known to be living in the U.S., where he shares his artistic knowledge with the next generation through classes and apprenticeships. As the mayor and chairman of the school committee, I am perhaps most appreciative of Yary’s dedication to the students of the Lowell Public Schools. His work has been recognized through numerous awards, including being named a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Yary’s accomplishments in the city are well-known and certainly well-deserved, and it is fitting that his artwork would grace this monument.
I feel that this monument holds a second important meaning as well. It is representative of the important contributions of the Cambodian American community to the City of Lowell. Ever since the first Cambodian family came to Lowell in 1979, this community has become an indelible part of the fabric of Lowell. It was members of the Cambodian American community of Lowell that sought to have this monument erected here in front of City Hall—in order for it to join the fellow monuments dedicated to Lowellians from Greece, Ireland, Portugal, France and other countries. Cambodian Lowellians spearheaded the effort and over a period of several years, organized, planned, and raised the funds to make this accomplishment possible. The recent redesign of JFK Plaza has allowed for the erection of this Khmer Refugee Monument and others that will follow it. The story of Lowell is constantly evolving and the monuments that surround us here today certainly reflect that. As our city continues to strive to be a welcoming mosaic of diverse cultures, I am proud to welcome the Khmer Refugee Monument to Lowell City Hall.