Community shares memories of civil rights

by Aerin Curtis
published February 23, 2014
Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE — The celebration of Black History Month is about community progress for some Cheyenne residents.

The annual event put on by the Love and Charity Club Inc. was set this year at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Cheyenne, on Thomes Avenue.

“The reason we do this is so we won’t forget,” Love and Chairity member LeNitra Oliver said. “So we can see where we’ve come from and how are we doing now, and see what our next steps in the future should be.”

It’s important to remember that history so the community can move forward, she said. “I was excited to see the whole thing come together,” she said.

“This is the first time we’ve done it on this multi-layer, where we’ve had multiple things going on.”

This year’s event included activities for children, a viewing of the movie “42,” which follows baseball player Jackie Robinson, and a panel on several aspects of the civil rights movement.

Panelists spoke on topics including sit-ins, bus boycotts, the freedom riders, the Brown vs. The Board of Education case and voters’ rights.

Along with the historical narrative, speakers shared parts of their own experiences living through the civil rights movement.

Speaker William Harris recounted his experiences with segregated restaurants while being a member of the military. “I was going to serve my country, but I couldn’t eat at a restaurant,” he said. “(This was) in the 1970s n that was not that long ago.”

Others, like speaker Gloria Edwards, spoke about some of the laws and “etiquette” required during the Jim Crow era.

These included things such as black men could not shake hands with white men and white drivers had the right-of-way at intersections, she said.

Also, black people were never to display superior knowledge of a topic, she said. She also shared some of absurdities that happened.

Edwards said she had to take a literacy test to register to vote, but the person who administered the test couldn’t read it. Instead of reading the assigned text, she recited the opening of the Declaration of Independence, she said.

Some speakers mentioned that they would like to see more students in the audience next year.

“We have experienced what we’re talking about,” Harris said. “The young people don’t realize what we went through.”

Several attendees said the speakers were their favorite part of the program.

“All of the speakers were amazing today,” the Rev. Audette Fulbright said.

Some, like attendee Lakeisha Henry, said they enjoyed seeing the historical displays and learning about the culture. “I was interested to see what was going on,” she said.

Her thoughts were echoed by attendee Jessica Taken, who said one reason she went was for the cultural education. “A lot of today is about education, and I feel it’s really important for my kids to learn about other cultures,” she said.

Others said they came to take in the community event. “I come every year to support Love and Charity,” attendee Carolyn Brown said.

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