MLK Challenge Volunteers paint and clean at Dreamland Ballroom
Last week I got a call from my business neighbor, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, which I call our sister building because we (Taborian Hall and Dreamland Ballroom) are positioned like bookends on either end of Ninth Street, the street once home to Little Rock’s thriving black business district.
The caller asked if we would partner with the center for its upcoming MLK Youth Challenge, during which high school students celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by visiting the center for a day of service. The students are divided into groups of 10 and, with their group leaders, are assigned a working location in the community.
I was happy to be asked and oblige, and decided they could paint the floor of the Dreamland Ballroom.
When they arrived, I treated them to a tour and told them about the history of the building and the African American community in Little Rock. As a white woman, I am always aware that I am a bystander to this part of history. It would be inadequate for me to tell the horrific stories of the cruel, berserk behavior the black community was subjected to during the ballroom’s heyday, so I focus on the positive accomplishments of black businesses on Ninth Street. Still though, it is not my history and I tread lightly.
I was shocked to learn that these children knew nothing about Ninth Street, an old stomping ground for many of their grandparents. They knew nothing about the rise and fall of this area or the ramifications of desegregation on their culture’s infrastructure.
I suddenly felt validated. It does not matter what color my skin is, because Â I have saved a part of history. In doing so, I am giving back to my community.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not my day. It belongs to the African American community, but that does not mean I cannot participate and learn. Everybody knows how King marched and spoke out for civil rights, but the old timer in this article, who lived the struggle, said â€œDr. King ended the terror of living in the South.
Kerry McCoy is founder and president of FlagandBanner.com and owner of historic Taborian Hall where the famous Dreamland Ballroom resides. She is also publisher of Brave Magazine. If you would like to interview Kerry or have her speak at your event contact firstname.lastname@example.org.