New art installation celebrates Houston's diversity

February 16, 2011 4:38:11 AM PST
A new art installation near downtown is now officially a part of Houston. While it's meant to celebrate the city's diversity, the idea for it was born out of a tragedy.

They're symbols of tolerance and harmony; seven mighty stainless steel human figures representing the seven continents resting along the banks of Buffalo Bayou. From a distance, they all look the same but up close they're all different -- created with the characters from the alphabets of nine different languages.

"This really speaks to the notion that -- and not to make a pun of it -- the idea that we are from multiple cultures, multiple languages but we are one humanity," Dr. Mahmoud Eboo with the Aga Khan Foundation said.

In order to understand and appreciate its significance, you must first recognize the inspiration behind the project. David Ritcheson was 16 when two teens sodomized him with a pole while shouting racial slurs. He survived the 2006 attack, and dozens of surgeries and later testified in Washington for stronger hate crime laws. But in 2007, Ritcheson killed himself by jumping off a cruise ship.

"He really wanted others not to suffer as he suffered and those words really resonated with me," Houston Philanthropist and Honorary Consul of Iceland Mica Mosbacher said.

Three years ago, Mosbacher began calling on private donors, who raised the money to see this project through.

Noticeably absent from Tuesday night's dedication was the Ritcheson family. Their attorney says it would have been too much for them.

"I can tell you that they are very excited about it. Anything that's going to memorialize David and what he meant to them and what they went through, they think is a great thing," attorney Carolos Leon said.

A lasting tribute to diversity and tolerance and reminder to us all that we are more alike than we are different.