Thursday, April 30, 2015

Press Conference Held to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the M.C. Moore Deseg Case

Press Conference at the African American Heritage Museum
Photo Credit: Antoinette Harrell
On April 29, 2015 a press conference was organized by Antoinette Harrell and Charles Terry to announce the upcoming events that will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of M.C. Moore's desegregation lawsuit against the Tangipahoa Parish School System.

The press conference was held at the African American Heritage Museum in Hammond, La., Several of the late M.C. Moore and Willie Mae Moore daughters was in attendance; Joyce, Katherine, Betty and Jeanette. Two son-in-laws, Charles Terry and Henry Jackson talked about the legacy their father-in-law left.

Joyce couldn't hold back her emotions as she talked about how hard it was for her. "When people asked me if I was the same Joyce associated with the case, I told them no it wasn't me," said Joyce.

Henry Jackson recalled standing guard with other African American men all night with guns to protect the Moore family after the Moore home was shot at in 1965.

Osa Bett Williams candidate for State Representative District #72 of Hammond recalled marching when A.Z. Young came through Hammond, LA.

Pat Morris of the president of the Tangipahoa Parish spoke about the opposition she faced from both blacks and whites in Tangipahoa Parish. The case was reopened in 2007 at the urging of the Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP because of numerous complaints of the school system's wronging of African-American children and African American employees.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of M.C. Moore Desegregation Lawsuit in Tangipahoa Parish

The late M.C. Moore
Hammond, LA - May 3, 2015, will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Mr. M.C. Moore's desegregation lawsuit against the Tangipahoa Parish School System. The lawsuit was initially filed on behalf of his daughter, Fannie Moore, who was disenfranchised and not given an opportunity to receive an equitable and fair education, which is guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Fifty years later, the question remains whether or not education in the lives of Black Children matter; the answer is emphatically, yes it does, because the fight continues for equity in this school system. Unfortunately, there is very little resolve towards settling this decades-old desegregation lawsuit.

Moreover, many are keen to talk about or write pieces about what happens or does not happen in the public school system in Tangipahoa Parish. Consequently, I process and attempt to find balance with personal ties to the conflicts in Tangipahoa Parish race relations and injustices found in our school system that have had my attention for decades now.
As we begin to reflect on the importance of this lawsuit, we think of the lawsuit being filed in 1965.  As a result of this filing, Mr. Moore was ostracized. For instance, he and his family were threatened, and his livelihood and means of providing for his family were taken away through his logging business being sabotaged, which resulted in his having to bake cakes to sell to provide for his family. Men guarded his home at night after his home was shot into early one morning. His wife heroically crawled through grass and weeds to a neighbor’s home to call the police because their telephone lines were cut on the outside of their home. Those bullet holes remain in Mr. Moore’s home to this very day. Despite having his life threatened and his livelihood compromised, Mr. Moore pressed on. Thank you, Mr. Moore, for your courage and tenacity in ensuring equality for African-American children, and ultimately all children. 

After this case was filed and opened in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, with the late Honorable Alvin Benjamin Rubin as the presiding judge, the Tangipahoa Parish School System was forced to integrate its public schools in 1969. Judge Rubin ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating, in pertinent part, that the Tangipahoa Parish School System was segregated and did not provide equitable educational access to African-American students. As a result, the school board was ordered to reinstate the jobs of all terminated African-American employees as one of the wrongs the Tangipahoa Parish School System committed following forced integration in 1969.

The plaintiffs’ case was led by Attorney Nelson Dan Taylor, Sr., who is now the Lead Attorney in the Moore Case.  This case was Attorney Taylor’s first case as an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund.  Unfortunately, the school system did not comply with Judge Rubin’s order, and the case became dormant following Honorable Alvin Benjamin Rubin's untimely death. 

The case was later reopened in 2007 at the urging of the Greater Tangipahoa Parish Branch NAACP because of numerous complaints of the school system’s wronging of African-American children and African American employees. Evidence was provided to prove that the same segregated conditions still exist in Tangipahoa Parish School System. The test case used to reopen the M.C. Moore desegregation case was the case of Coach Alden Foster, who became the first African-American head high school football coach hired in Tangipahoa Parish. Coach John Williams was reportedly the first African-American head high school football coach in Tangipahoa Parish. However, after speaking to several others, including Coach Williams, we discovered that he was not given the position of head football coach at Hammond High School in Hammond, Louisiana, despite being appointed by Judge Rubin. Instead, Coach Carmen Moore, a white coach, was named as the head football coach at Hammond High.  

The discourse of this article is too long to write all of what has happened over the past fifty years in the Moore Case, however, a Master Thesis done by Dr. Wayne Brumfield is found in the Southeastern Louisiana University public library. 

As we commemorate the lawsuit’s 50th anniversary, let us remember to thank God for the stamina of Mr. Moore, his trials endured, and triumphs he and others made for every child attending school in the Tangipahoa Parish School System.  Let us be mindful, as well as thankful for all of the accomplishments seen and unseen in this case having been reopened, because without such, sitting conservative judges would have dismissed this case due to its inactivity. 

While there are some thirty-six unopened desegregation cases, let us be mindful that the M.C. Moore lawsuit has set a precedent for subsequent desegregation cases. As President of the GTPB NAACP, and as I walk in the shoes of the late Mr. M.C. Moore, I feel his pain many times, and my heart breaks as I continue to witness the disenfranchisement of African-American children in the Tangipahoa Parish School System. Despite the many wrongs of this school system, I am reminded by Ecclesiastes 9:11 that “the race is not given to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor the bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill, but time and chance happened to them all.” With these words in mind, the fight for equality will not end, and it cannot until “justice rolls down like a mighty stream” for every student and employee in this school system. There can be no other way, and no person will be left behind. 

The Moore family and Antoinette Harrell has organized several events to commemorate the legacy of M.C. Moore. They began by getting the Parish Council to issue a Proclamation  proclaiming May 3, 2015 as M.C. Moore Educational Awareness Day. On Wednesday, April 29, a press conference will be held at 10:00 am at the African American Heritage Museum in Hammond, LA., at 1:45 p.m. that Wednesday afternoon Joyce Marie Moore, Henry Jackson, Charles Terry and Pat Morris, President of the Tangipahoa Parish NAACP will speak at Southeastern Louisiana University Department of Sociology, Professor Rebecca Hensley. A wreath laying ceremony at Holly Garden cemetery will take place on Sunday, May 3rd at 4:00 pm, and on Sunday evening at 6:00 pm, a worship service will be at the First Church of God In Christ, Attorney Nelson Taylor will be the keynote speakers. On Monday, May 4, at 6:00 pm a panel discussion will be held at the First Church of God in Christ. On Tuesday, May 5, the Moore Family will be featured on NOATV Cable Access television “ Nurturing Our Roots “ Educational Talk Show with producer and host Antoinette Harrell. The Moore Family are asking citizens of Tangipahoa Parish to join them as they honor the legacy of M.C. Moore a pioneer  who changed the educational system in Tangipahoa Parish to ensure that African American children get a quality education. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Historic Civil Rights Works of Robert "Bob" Hicks of Washington Parish

Mr. Robert " Bob" Hicks is considered a " Lion in the Louisiana Civil Rights Movement whose legal victories helped fight against segregation in Bogalusa, La, and changed discriminatory employment practices throughout the south." Mr. Hicks began his civil rights work as member of the local NAACP, the Bogalusa Voter and Civic League and was also the founder of the Bogalusa Chapter of the Deacons for Defense and Justice. Mr. Hicks conducted daily marches to protest racial discrimination by merchants and local government. Among his many accomplishments in fighting for civil rights. Mr. Hicks filed several landmark lawsuit, on lawsuit obtained a federal court order requiring the police to protect protest marches. 

Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.

Another suit filed was against the US Department of Housing where prohibition of the construction of public housing in segregated neighborhoods in Bogalusa. During this time Mr. Hicks worked at Crown Zellerbach and was one of the few African American men employed there. After going to court for many years with Crown Zellarbach, he became the company's first African American supervisor. He also served as the president of the Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulphite and Paper Mill Workers. He was a true hero, a kind of grave man. His dedication to justice had an impact on not only Bogalusa and Washington Parish.

On February 1, 1965,  Mr. Hicks learned that the Ku Klux Klan plan to bomb his home, he and his family were told by police that they could not protect the. The Klan was furious that Hicks was housing two white civil rights workers and demanded they leave that night. Aware of the danger, Hicks, said " no" to the demand. Hicks and wife called friends to take their five children to a safe place and asked for protection. Armed black men stood guard during the night. On February 21, the Jonesboro Deacons of Defense and Justice visited Bogalusa to start a chapter citing the second Amendment and carrying funds with the mission of protection against white aggression. Mr. Hicks took the lead starting a Bogalusa chapter. Deacons confrontation with the Klan created history, started a Civil Rights Movement, empowering a people and propelled the U.S. Government to enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act to neutralize the Klan. The Hick's home was the birth and meeting places for Deacons, foot soldiers, lawyers, civil and human rights advocates and a safe haven for all. Decisions made in this home significantly impacted the future of the community. Louisiana and the nation. Hicks showed courage in defense of justice and equality.

Over the years, the Hicks family opened their home to numerous national renowned individuals, such as entertainer Dick Gregory, and James Farmer, the head of Congress of Racial Equality. The Hicks home was placed on the National Register Listing of Historic Places. 

Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.
Barbara Hick Collins, Executive Director of the Hicks Foundation. The Foundations sole intention is to preserve the history of the people of the Bogalusa, LA., The Foundation continues to make great strides in their mission to inform, educate, inspire and motivate people for Bogalusa and Washington Parish.