2013 Civil Rights Museum Gala Honors Heroes & She-roesBy Yasmine Regester, Staff Writer
Published: February 12, 2013
The gala commemorates the 53rd anniversary of the Greensboro Sit-ins and celebrates the opening of the museum in 2010. The theme of the evening, “Celebrating Our Victories as We Honor Our Past” rang true as dignitaries from across the state and nation each gave testimony to the change made possible by theGreensboro(A&T) Four.
On February 1, 1960, fourNorth CarolinaA&T StateUniversitystudents, Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), Franklin McCain, Joesph McNeil, and David Richmond (deceased) challenged a segregationist society and staged a sit-in at the lunch counter of the F.W. Woolworth building in downtownGreensboro. That day was the catalyst in sparking similar student led protests across N.C. and in nine other states.
Dr. Franklin McCain, a member of the Greensboro Four said, “We’re here tonight to celebrate, remember and pay tribute to some who felt compelled to answer the call to freedom and equal justice.”
This year’s gala was dedicated to the late Dr. James C. Johnson who served on the museum’s Board of Directors before his death.
Emceed by Tracey McCain of WFMY News 2, she noted that the bravery of the A&T Four laid the foundation for her and many others to follow in their footsteps.
The 2013 North Carolina Heritage Calendar was also distributed at the banquet. Launched by AT&T last year inRaleigh,N.C., it features men and women of all races fromNorth Carolinawho have contributed significantly to the lives and experiences of African Americans in the state, including an interesting history fact listed on each calendar day.
In addition to live entertainment and dinner, the museum also presented awards to some of the movers and shakers of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Alston-Jones International Civil & Human Rights award recipient was Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, director of the National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution inWashington,D.C.Most famously known as the first African American woman president ofSpelmanCollege, Cole is a distinguished professor, college president, and humanitarian. Cole also served as president atBennettCollegefor Women inGreensborofrom 2002- 2007.
“When we women are the first, we have to be committed to not being the last,” said Cole who praised the Greensboro Four for their courage.
“Tonight I speak of the Greensboro Four and their gall and tenacity to saying “no more” to injustice. This honor places me in the company of heroes and she-roes of the Civil Rights Movement.”
Cole noted that there is still a cause, yet the focus has switched. “The civil rights cause of today is a cause of education because without it no people or individual can move to where they must be. Education is essential for everyone. These warriors of justice did what they did so that one day people would not be judged by the color of their skin, sexual orientation, ability or disability.”
Co-founder of the ICRCM and former Guilford County Commissioner, Melvin “Skip” Alston said, “This is a time to celebrate our history and those trailblazers who made such an important impact on our lives. We’re saying thank you to the heroes of yesteryear that worked so hard to bring us this far.”
The 2013 Unsung Hero award was presented to Gladys Shipman, owner of Shipman’s Family Home Care, a home health company located inGreensboro.
The Sit-In Heroes award is given to individuals for their participation in the 1960 sit-ins. Raphael Glover, a graduate of A&T and retired engineer, and Rosalyn Cheagle, aBennettCollegegraduate and history professor were theGreensborohonorees. Mary Lou Andrews Blakeney, a retired nurse and A. Dennis McBride, M.D. were the 2013 Sit-In Heroes forHigh Point. McBride is recognized for leading the first high school lunch counter sit-in in North Carolina and Blakeney founded the February 11th Association, an organization that commemorates the movement in High Point from February 11, 1960 to 1968.
Joe L. Dudley, Sr, entrepreneur and co-founder of Dudley Q+ brand and haircare products, received the 2013 Trailblazer award.
The ICRCM is located in the former Woolworth’s building, which first began to serve Blacks on July 25, 1960 nearly six months after the first sit-in.
Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem, Yvonne Johnson said, “It’s personal to me because I was a veteran of the movement. They decided to take a stand for freedom. Restoring this landmark has been a crowning achievement to our city. I see this museum as a reminder to be ever vigilant when it comes to our freedom.”