Monday, August 11, 2008

Celebrating 50 years since Dockum; Reflections on the 50th Anniversary Commemoration


I waited a couple days before writing this post; partly out of exhaustion, and partly out of a desire to sit back and appreciate what had just taken place. On Saturday, August 9th, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Dockum Sit-in, and despite the many challenges the celebration was everything we'd hoped it would be... 9 of the original sit-in participants along with Ms. Rosie Hughes, who served as the Youth Council advisor, were on hand for the day's festivities.

The morning was set to begin with an 11:00am March to the Chester I Lewis Park for speeches and presentations. But after two consecutive weeks of beautiful weather, we all rose on the morning of the 9th to the sound of thunder and lightning. Before 7am, we were all frantically calling each other, praying and considering contingency plans... By 8am the news media had gotten into the fray with repeated calls asking what we'd do... We decided to have everyone come to the Kansas African American Museum as previously scheduled, and if the weather didn't allow, we'd simply hold the presentations there.

And despite the rain, by 10:00am a few hundred people had crammed into the small facility, filling the exhibition halls as well as the upper balconies. One by one, people began to approach me asking that we please continue the march, regardless of the weather; everyone wanted the opportunity to show their appreciation for the sacrifices of the honorees by sacrificing a little themselves... As my friend Maryon Habtemarium said to me, "after all they did for us, all we have to do is get wet".
.
Lavonta, Kenya, Elaine, and I quickly touched bases and confirmed that we had each sensed that the general consensus was that we should go forward with the planned march. But by that time, some of the media outlets had reported that the march had been cancelled and the stage and musicians who were scheduled had already been pulled back. But I asked the growing crowd if they wanted to march and I was met with a roar that left no doubt; we were marching to that park no matter what.
.
So we decided that we'd hold the presentations inside the museum, and once finished, we'd hit the street. Reverend Gill Ford and Stephanie Brown, representing the National Office addressed the honorees and the crowd, and spoke to the significance and the legacy of the Dockum Sit-in. Dr. Ron Walters, who was the youth council President in 1958, addressed his fellow honorees and the crowd and spoke at length about the Sit-in, it's genesis, and it's meaning. The Mayor, who had been out of town the previous night, sent word that somehow he would make it back for the ceremony. And just as Dr. Walters was wrapping up, the Mayor came in wet from the rain, but still ready to speak. He offered an apology to the Sit-in participants for the indignities that they'd suffered and along with Councilwoman Lavonta Williams and Councilwoman Sharon Fearey, presented each of them with a Key to the City.
.









After the presentations had concluded, we all headed outside for the March. And just as we were lining up to march, the rain stopped... We marched down to the site of the old Dockum store and continued over to Chester I Lewis Park. As we made our way down Broadway, the procession grew to more than 500 people stretching a full city block. We were joined by people from Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Colorado. And while there was no microphone or stage there in the park (due to the earlier rains) we celebrated anyway, with additional words of encouragement and commemoration from Dr. Ron Walters, Mayor Carl Brewer, Congressman Todd Tiahrt, Senator Donald Betts, and Pastor Mark Smith.
.









After the march, we held a 5:00 reception for the Dockum Sit-In participants followed by a City-Wide Gospel Concert that was simply unbelievable! (Video from the event will be available soon) Local Gospel greats such as Betty Clark Johnson, Terri Bradshaw, Chosen, Moses Grasham, Steven Jones, Kim McLaurion, the Tabernacle Mass Choir and many others performed current Gospel numbers and even some old gospel songs from the 1958 time period.
.
I'll post more pictures from the evening Gospel concert in the coming days. But I have to say, one of my favorite moments from the celebration came near it's close, when I was able for the very first time to stand at the podium along with the current President of the Wichita NAACP Youth council; my Daughter Amani Myles... The other President Myles addressed the honorees on behalf of the current Youth Council and made a pledge that they would work as a group to get the story of the Dockum Sit-In recorded in the textbooks. I'll keep you all posted on that effort.
.
.
The 50th anniversary commemoration ceremonies were completed this morning when the Wichita City Council issued a proclamation naming August 11th, Dockum Sit-in recognition day.
.
Despite the rain, despite the media reports that the March had been cancelled, and despite the last minute changes that the rain required, I am truly thankful that we were still able to move forward and stage a great event and memorable ceremony in honor of our nearly forgotten heroes...
.















wibiya widget

About This Blog

About This Blog

Jung/Myers Briggs

INTJ - "Mastermind". Introverted intellectual with a preference for finding certainty. A builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models. 2.1% of total population.
Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs/MBTI)

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP