2017 spotlights nation’s civil rights milestones
CAMBRIDGE — The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center will host its grand opening on Saturday, March 11, but Tubman’s civil rights contribution won’t be the only one receiving special recognition in Cambridge in 2017.
This year will also mark the 50th anniversary of the height of the civil rights movement in Cambridge, an anniversary which will be recognized by a four day event – Reflections on Pine: Cambridge Commemorates the Civil Rights Movement, Community & Change – organized by Dion Banks and Kisha Petticolas of the Eastern Shore Network for Change (ESNC).
“In July of 1967, the town of Cambridge was shattered after long-simmering racial tensions erupted in clashes between black residents and the mostly white police officers,” Banks said. “The riots and resulting fires burned 17 buildings in a two block area of Pine Street, the center of African-American community.”
The event is made possible, Banks and Petticolas said, by a broad coalition of community partners committed to making Cambridge a place where everyone is welcome, and every person can be successful, happy, and healthy. Those partners include leaders in education, economic development, public safety, recreation, culture, business, and the faith community.
Reflections on Pine will be held Thursday, July 20 through Sunday, July 23. Events for the weekend will take place all over the city, and ever yone is encouraged to participate.
Thursday opens the weekend with a prayer breakfast sponsored by the Ministerial Alliance. Thursday evening there will be an opening reception at Chesapeake College. Friday evening there will be a gala dinner at the Hyatt, celebrating Gloria Richardson Dandridge and other notable Cambridge civil rights activists.
Saturday afternoon there will be a community conversation on the issue of race relations. Saturday evening will be a music festival that ESNC is calling “Groove on Pine”. Early Sunday morning, runners will partake in a 5k race entitled “The Race Against Racism,” and later that morning a non-denominational community church service will be held in an effort to desegregate the most segregated hour in America.
Banks and Petticolas believe it to be very significant that this celebration of Harriet Tubman will take place in the same year as the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement in Cambridge.
“Harriet was the first civil rights leader in our community that we are aware of,” Petticolas said. “She led the way to freedom for many slaves and gave them the opportunity for a better life. Her spirit is the thread that runs through the civil rights movement in Cambridge, and it is more than appropriate that she be celebrated during this anniversary year. The opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center is a part of our civil rights and human rights story. It’s all a continuation of experiences in American histor y.”
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center is a stakeholder in the Reflections on Pine event, according to Banks and Petticolas, and the park staff have been quite supportive of the event.
The partnership will be mutually beneficial as ESNC will be in attendance at the opening of the visitor center to distribute information about Reflections on Pine, and on the last day of the July event, shuttles will be organized by ESNC to transport those who wish to visit the park, Banks and Petticolas said.
In addition to these two events, civil rights champion Gloria Richardson was celebrated in Cambridge on Saturday, Feb. 11, as Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford declared that day Gloria Richardson Day in Maryland.
Richardson, 94, a Cambridge native now living in New York, is credited with leading civil rights demonstrations in Cambridge during the 1960s with a nonviolent approach, focusing on public accommodations and continuing the cause with other activists in the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee when segregation remained in the city.
“Maryland recognizes the courageous leadership and commitment of Gloria H. Richardson during the civil rights moment of the 1960s,” Rutherford said. “During a time of racial segregation, Gloria H. Richardson became one of the strongest advocates for economic rights, as well as desegregation. Maryland is proud to join in honoring Gloria H. Richardson for her contributions in the fight to achieve racial equality during a defining era of our nation’s struggle for civil rights for all.”
Banks and Petticolas called it an absolute honor to be part of the initiative to honor Gloria Richardson. Knowing that we were able to celebrate her while alive and to thank her for her sacrifice was a surreal experience, they said.
“She along with her supporters, successfully challenged a national system that led a better life for people in Cambridge and ultimately, the entire country,” said Banks. “It is important that we honor Harriet Tubman, Gloria Richardson, and other notable people who unselfishly gave of their time and energy to create a better world for others. We honor them by sharing their stories with our community and with the world. We etch their stories in the memories of our local residents, and in the books of time, to make sure their sacrifices are never taken for granted.”
“Eastern Shore Network for Change thrives on the energy of local greats like Harriet Tubman, Gloria Richardson, Fed Jackson, Lemuel Chester, Dwight Cromwell, and Enez Stafford-Grubb, to name a few,” said Petticolas. “We are proud to celebrate the accomplishments of local heroes, who dedicated their lives to battling civil injustice. We celebrate our civil rights heroes, both past and present, because the struggle for social justice continues. By holding up these heroes, we inspire the next generation to continue the fight, because the status quo is not an option.”
Banks and Petticolas invite everyone to join the ESNC in July for Reflections on Pine: Cambridge Commemorates the Civil Rights Movement, Community & Change, and ask those interested to consider a donation, sponsorship, and volunteering time to make the event a success.
For more information about the upcoming event, visit www.reflectionsonpine.org.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, left, Eastern Shore Network for Change co-founder Dion Banks and Cambridge-Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley unveil on Feb. 11, the ESNC’s banner for the upcoming series “50 Years After the Fire: A Commemoration of Our History,” a commemoration of the summer of 1967 and the fire on Pine Street
Reflections on Pine: Cambridge Commemorates the Civil Rights Movement, Community & Change is an event organized by the Eastern Shore Network for Change.