Civil Rights educational, commemorative program Aug. 23, 25

LINDA JOHNSON Contributing writer

PLAQUEMINE – As we commemorate the events of 1963, Plymouth Rock Baptist Church is hosting an educational forum on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 7 p.m. with the showing of the Louisiana Diary, which includes the Plaquemine story.

The film is a master copy loaned to us by Joseph Basile of WNET and Alex Cherian of San Francisco Bay Area Film Archives.

The film has been enhanced for our viewing. Persons on the panel are Ronnie Moore, Dr. Lance Hill, Torris Armstead, Kathe Hambrick and will be moderated by retired Judge Calvin Johnson.

In 1963, the most horrific events occurred in Plaquemine that led to the desegregation of the public schools in Iberville Parish.

Lest we forget that in 1963, everything was segregated, lest we forget that in our courthouse and all Public buildings were signs over water fountains that said "colored and white water."

Children today have no concept; they sometimes ask what color was the water? Lest we forget that even though we are human we could not find restrooms like other Americans.

Lest we forget if we wanted food from the small number of fast food places or drive inns, we followed the signs to the back, lest we forget that there were no black clerks in any of the local stores, lest we forget we could not place money in a black tellers hand, lest we forget there were basically housekeeping and labor jobs, lest we forget the books we used in our schools had been used before and still had the names of the original students, lest we forget people lived in homes with outdoor plumbing, lest we forget every white person as young as eighteen were given the title of Mr. or Mrs., lest we forget we had few black businesses, lest we forget we did not know there were senator and representative college scholarships for our children, lest we forget we had no local black law enforcement officers.

Look how far we have come. We have sued and gotten the schools desegregated, we have clerks in every establishment, we can enter any restaurant and order food and sit down to eat it, we now can converse with black bank tellers, and of course we have had some great employment opportunities.

Have we come far enough? Absolutely not. We are desperate for affordable housing. We are desperate for more economic opportunities. We are desperate for more of our children getting high quality education. We are desperate for more black businesses; we are desperate for committed leadership like we had in 1963 and finally we are desperate to tell our children the story.

Gary Hebert, the former owner and publisher of this paper wrote the following in his Persimmons column in 1994: "Let it suffice to say that the role played by Plymouth Rock Baptist Church, the building, the members, the minister is not to be denied in history and a proper place has to be assigned to what took place here and why it did take place. In retrospect, I have come to believe that this type of thing, not only here, but also across the nation, was necessary to accomplish the changes that have come about. Those of us in this community must come to realize that there were people at Plymouth Rock Baptist Church who were visionaries and knew what had to be done. They fearlessly carried out their beliefs."