FRCC brings Civil Rights Icons to Ferguson to speak with students

Carlotta Walls Lanier (left) and Edith Lee-Payne (right) speak with students at McCluer South-Berkeley High School.

Carlotta Walls Lanier (left) and Edith Lee-Payne (right) speak with students at McCluer South-Berkeley High School. Photo Credit: St. Louis Public Radio

As October ended, Family Resources and Community Connections (FRCC), the St. Louis affiliate of the National Alliance of Faith and Justice and its Pen or Pencil Group Mentoring Program, asked  students to take a stand to keep a seat.

The “Take a Stand to Keep a Seat” program encourages students to focus on education to honor civil rights struggles of the past.

On October 29-30, 2014 more than than 500 students from McCluer South-Berkeley High School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, and Jennings Jr. High in the Jennings School District, listened as civil rights icons Carlotta Walls LaNier and Edith Lee-Payne spoke about the lessons of the civil rights movement and the importance of education in the pursuit of continued progress.

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Carlotta Walls LaNier is the youngest of the Central High Little Rock 9, a group of teenagers in Little Rock, Arkansas instrumental in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Walls LaNier is the youngest of the Central High Little Rock 9, a group of teenagers in Little Rock, Arkansas instrumental in the American Civil Rights Movement. The nine black students enrolled at formerly all-white Central High School in September 1957. In 1954 U.S. Supreme Court had ruled, in a landmark decision, that segregation in public schools unconstitutional.The court had mandated that all public schools in the country be integrated “with all deliberate speed.”

The  National Alliance of Faith and Justice partnered with the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice for each event.

Students were encouraged apply the lessons of civil rights youth leadership to challenge personal decisions and maintain a strong focus on education.

Walls LaNier asked students to imagine a helicopter circling above and 1,200 troops from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division on their campus.  She said this is what life was like when she helped to integrate Little Rock Central High School.

“I had a guard who took me from one classroom to the next,” Walls LaNier told students gathered in the school’s auditorium. “But I was determined to get my education.

“To get all the education they possibly can and to graduate from high school and move on to the next level,” she said.

This image was a little more realistic for students in light of the unrest following the shooting of Michael Brown and  current events taking place with the shooting investigation.

“Pen or Pencil,” means just that– pen stands for penitentiary and pencil symbolizes education. Through videos and and learning plans, the program stresses to students the need to stay focused on education to avoid situations that lead to the latter.

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Edith Lee-Payne is the subject of a famous photograph depicting the face of youth from the 1963 March on Washington.

“I see these children and I see myself,” Lee-Payne said.

She was 12 years old when she attended the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. She is the subject of a famous photograph depicting the face of youth from the 1963 March on Washington. The photo of Lee-Payne carrying a banner for the march has become an iconic image featured in books and documentaries related to the movement.

FRCC is committed to developing Partnerships and Collaborations with organizations who share a mutual concern in impacting the lives of children, families and communities – A catalyst for change. Interested in working with FRCC? Would you like Pen or Pencil in your community? Contact us at +1 314 3977325 or via email at info@frccstl.org.

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