On Feb. 29, 2024, a chilly but spirited morning dawned upon the historically Black Northside of Poughkeepsie as the community gathered for a momentous occasion: the dedication ceremony for the Petty Officer 1st Class Corey Ingram Circle & Poughkeepsie Champions Walk. The new monument is located at the traffic circle in front of Hudson Gardens apartments where Smith Street, Creek Road, and Salt Point Turnpike meet. The joyful and, at times, poignant celebration marked the culmination of years of planning and served as a fitting finale to Black History Month.

Organized by a committee of community members in collaboration with the Poughkeepsie Alliance, a nonprofit focused on enhancing the city’s quality of life, the ceremony manifested the resilience and unity of the Northside community. Mario Johnson of the Poughkeepsie Alliance served as the master of ceremonies for the event, which began at 11 am and ran for over an hour and a half. The event began and ended with an invocation and benediction from local pastors. Chris Kroner of Mass Design Group, the nonprofit firm behind the project’s design, delivered opening remarks reflecting on the endeavor’s history and significance. Elected officials and community leaders echoed these sentiments, underscoring the importance of honoring the past while forging a brighter future.

Central to the ceremony were the words of the honorees and their family members, whose legacies were immortalized in the purposefully rusted steel monuments lining Smith Street. The “centerpiece” of the monument is an over-ten-foot-tall circle of steel supports interspersed with large steel letters that spell out “POUGHKEEPSIE” twice around its circumference. A street sign with the name “PO 1st Class Corey G. Ingram Circle” denotes the central reason for the monument: to honor the legacy left behind by a native son of Poughkeepsie who lost his life in service to the nation in the United States Navy.

The Champions’ Walk has five honorees so far, all selected by a nomination and voting process that engaged the community to choose its inaugural champions: “Theodore “Tree” Arrington, Barbara Jeter-Jackson, Wesley J. Lee, Perinella “Penny” Lewis, and Lorraine Roberts — “legends” of Poughkeepsie’s Northside community and the city at large. Their contributions, ranging from grassroots activism to civic leadership, exemplified the spirit of service and dedication that defines Poughkeepsie’s ethos – or as some would call it in reference to Poughkeepsie High’s mascot, the “Pioneer Spirit.” Fifteen more spaces for monuments have been reserved for future honorees to be added to the Champions’ Walk in the coming years. 

Due to the inclement weather, the ceremony was held inside the gymnasium at the Boys & Girls Club of Poughkeepsie, adjacent to the monument site. Over 150 community members found respite from the biting cold along with the warmth, camaraderie, and collective pride packed into that gymnasium.

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