By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief
An evening dedicated to the cultural arts with a special focus on the Detroit Riots in 1967 and one of Fort Worth’s most impactful African-American civil rights fighters made for an educational evening for TCC students, faculty and staff Feb. 8.
Attendees met on TR for dinner and a discussion with L. Clifford Davis, facilitated by history instructor James Conway, before walking to the Jubilee Theatre to see Detroit ‘67.
TR Campus president Sean Madison, whose office, along with TR student activities, sponsored the evening, said he thinks it’s important for students to be in touch with the cultural landscape of Fort Worth.
“This is a vibrant community, and it’s vibrant with arts,” he said. “Downtown is not to be seen on a map. Downtown is to be explored, so this gives them an opportunity to explore, and we explore it as a college family.”
TR has staged a cultural arts night for the last couple years, Madison said, adding that any chance they have to expose students to Fort Worth’s cultural landscape, they try to do so.
“Many of our students, their academic careers, their journeys at TCC are enriched when they have exposure to the arts such as the event that we’re providing this evening,” he said.
Particularly enriching, Madison said, was the opportunity to hear from Davis, who was an active participant in the legal challenges of the civil rights movement.
Madison described it as remarkable because Davis is a “walking history book.” At 93, Davis passionately shared his experiences and memories of life in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
“It gave us an opportunity to kind of really situate what was going on in 1967 in Fort Worth, in Detroit, but also at large within the United States,” Madison said. “So this was also a learning opportunity for our students as well and for all of us a reminder of just how far we’ve come as it relates to civil rights and social justice.”
Davis was an attorney from 1949 to 1983 and assisted attorney Thurgood Marshall, later a Supreme Court justice, on the case that would ultimately become Brown v. Board of Education. Davis was involved in a wide variety of efforts to end segregation including housing litigation but doesn’t claim a particular victory, he said.
“I claim that I was one of the ones trying to help with the change,” Davis said.
His overarching message during the pre-dinner discussion was that civil rights needed a new emphasis.
“I call that emphasis civil responsibility. Another way to say it is individual responsibility,” he said. “We’ve got to get individuals to come to the conclusion that ‘I want to deal with every other human being in a respectful and a dignified manner as an individual.’”
Davis said society has come a long way, but people should not be content and need to change the conversation about individual responsibility to be fair, honest and honorable.
“When an individual takes that responsibility, they will carry it to their organization and life,” he said.
South student Tamarrow Jones, whose family was in Detroit around 1967, said the pre-performance discussion was awesome.
“It was a pleasure and an honor to have that presentation before the play by such an educated 93-year-old judge, and he’s also a black man from the Fort Worth area,” she said. “It was definitely a big treat for us tonight.”
At the theater, the show is set to a ‘60s Motown beat and the play takes place in a family’s basement. Racial tensions, conflicts between police and the black community, street rebellion and violence are the backdrop.
South student Janettra Stots, who attended the event to learn more about what was going on during the year her mother was born, said the play was really enjoyable.
“It was like watching a live TV show, and the acting was really good,” she said
Chancellor Eugene Giovannini also attended and said TCC is excited to partner with Jubilee Theatre.
“I don’t think people realize how lucky we are to have a venue like this,” he said. “From the perspective of the college serving all intercultural opportunities, this is a wonderful venue and to be able to partner with Jubilee Theatre is really great for our faculty, our students and our staff.”