Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Northern Virginia Civil Rights Archive Dedication

July 2, 2014 marked the 50 year anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Congressman Connolly, Mr. John Harper (1st African-American elected to PWCS School Board),
and Mrs. Marion Dobbins with members of the community.

Over the past year, Congressman Gerry Connolly, his staff, and staff members from George Mason University have been working diligently to collect testimonies, photographs, and conduct interviews with Northern Virginia citizens who volunteered to share their stories of struggle, trials and triumphs during the Civil Rights Movement.   

The stories they had to share are those that will not be found in your children’s history books, aligned with objectives set forth by Virginia’s Standards of Learning.  However, they address the universal archetypes of the civil rights era stories we are all familiar with, aligned with the sheer will of a people filled with purpose to right the wrongs in their communities.  They illustrate disparities which existed in our communities, that were hidden in the corners of our darker past, which are now brought to light.  

These are more than mere stories; they are modern day lore shared from the mouths of our community legends.  They are examples of how that group of committed citizens can come together and indeed change the world, as mentioned by Margaret Mead.  They are the lessons we all need to be proud of, and the words we need to share with our children and hold dear to our hearts, so we will not have to repeat the past.
Mrs. Lillie Jessie, Mrs. Fannie Fitzgerald (one of PWCS' "Courageous Four),
Mrs. Denise McPhail, and members of the community.
On Monday, July 7, Connolly’s team’s hard work and dedication came to fruition during the dedication ceremony for the “Northern Virginia Civil Rights Archive: Personal Histories of Struggle and Achievement in Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.”

During the event, Mrs. Marion Dobbins-Project Coordinator, and Dr. Debra Lattanzi Shutika-GMU English Department Chair and Director of the Northern Virginia Folklife Archive, spoke on their experiences collecting information for the project, and presented a video with a preview of the testimonies captured in the digital archive.

Audience members were delighted to hear the personal testimonies of Mr. Edwin B. Henderson II-of the Tinner Hill Foundation, Mrs. Lillie Jessie-PWCS School Board Member, and Mr. Ralph Smith-President of the Prince William NAACP and former Freedom Rider!

Video footage of Mrs. Lillie Jessie addressing the audience.

Video footage of Mr. Ralph Smith addressing the audience.

Mrs. Lillie Jessie shared a quote with the audience that was very fitting for the event," Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones.  A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you."~Shannon L. Alder

Video footage of Congressman Connolly presenting the 50 hours of recorded testimonies to
George Mason University.

The digital Archives will be available through the Library of Congress, the Fairfax County Library System, the Prince William County Library System, George Mason University, as well as Congressman Connolly’s website.

I, Too Sing America
“I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.” 
 ~Langston Hughes

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