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Friday, May 6, 2016

Organizers 'thrilled' with this year's King celebration

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Four days of events celebrating noted civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and African-American history in Fort Scott recently concluded at Fort Scott Community College, and organizers and others involved with the activities couldn't be more thrilled with the results.

"I'm just really, really pleased," Jill Warford, director of the Gordon Parks Museum, said. "We had really great crowds at the noon luncheon (on Wednesday). Last night (Thursday), we had a lot of students" participate in the MLK Open Mic Night in the Gordon Parks Museum.

Events throughout the week included screenings of films on civil rights, a presentation on longtime Fort Scott educator, Professor Ernest J. Hawkins, and a variety of other performances and presentations.

Warford said she wished attendance was higher at Monday evening's King celebration, an observance that included speakers, music, poetry and dance. She added organizers will probably look at why fewer people turned out for this event and said it could be that the holiday is a vacation day for some people.

"We had a lot of different things for different age groups," she said.

Warford said more than 100 people attended the noon luncheon on Wednesday, a public event that focused on Hawkins, who was posthumously inducted into the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame as one of the members of the Class of 2013.

Warford said she has heard many positive comments about several events and activities held throughout the week.

Kirk Sharp, one of the presenters during the Hawkins gathering, was also one of the judges for the open mic night, emceed by Pechone Stepps and attended by about 100 people. Students gave dramatic readings, read poetry, sang and danced, and did "a little bit of everything," Sharp said.

"I really enjoyed last night with the talent young individuals in our community have," he said. "There were several artists with talent and ability. We have a lot of great kids in this community that expressed themselves really, really well. It was extremely hard to judge; they were all talented," he added.

Student performances celebrated King, Gordon Parks and diversity and civil rights.

Sharp said the week of events was "awesome from the very first night" and he has heard "nothing but positive" comments from people in the community about the celebration.

"It's been a great week," he said.

There was a "great turnout" for the presentation on Hawkins, Sharp said.

"We just wanted to reintroduce the community to Professor Hawkins and all of his achievements," he said. "It was a great turnout and a great program. We wanted to educate everybody about him."

Sharp said he is also on the committee that worked to get Hawkins inducted into the KSHSAA Hall of Fame. Sharp said Hawkins' induction is a "historic event" and recognizes the man Sharp said is considered to be the "Father of Colored Basketball."

"He was an incredible, remarkable man," he said.

Warford said the eight-member committee that organized this week's events, which included FSCC staff and community members, started meeting monthly and later biweekly about six months ago to plan the celebration.

She said there are "definitely" plans in place to hold a similar series of events next year to honor King and remember African-American history in Fort Scott.

"We'll get the committee together and look at any changes we want to make," she said. "You have to keep changing it to make it fresh. We'll try something new and different next year, too."

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