Reynoldsburg News

Event to commemorate Civil Rights Act

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The third annual African American History Month observance at Reynoldsburg Encore Academy will celebrate "The Golden Jubilee of the Civil Rights Act."

The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at Encore Academy on Reynoldsburg High School's Summit Road campus, 8579 Summit Road.

It is being coordinated by Climate of Change, a community-based organization founded in 2011 and chaired by Reynoldsburg City Councilman Cornelius McGrady III.

The program is free and open to the public. Those attending are asked to bring a nonperishable food item to donate to the Reynoldsburg Helping Hands food pantry.

Participants will include W. Samuel Nails and Mary Cassells Kearney.

Nails is a survivor of what came to be called the Orangeburg Massacre, a 1968 incident in which people demonstrating against a segregated bowling alley on the South Carolina State University campus in Orangeburg were fired upon by white police officers. Three students were killed and 28 others were wounded, most shot in the back or the soles of their feet, according to an online story posted by USA Today.

Kearney is a descendant of President Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

McGrady said entertainment will include musical selections by 17-year-old soprano opera singer Alexis Hill.

McKenna Sinclair Hensley, a New Albany student and junior division winner of the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest, will also participate.

McGrady said the purpose of Climate of Change is to promote cultural diversity and domestic violence awareness.

"To understand the world around us and its people, we must first be able to interact and experience the many cultures of our own community, in order to enhance cross-cultural and cross-gender awareness," he said.

He said it is important to celebrate African American History Month and other ethnic observance events.

"They are an opportunity to learn about various ethnic groups and their struggles and to recognize the continuous achievements of all Americans to American culture, and to increase awareness, mutual respect and understanding," he said.

"I believe we cannot succeed operating as sectors," McGrady said. "Regardless of your socioeconomic status, we all must communicate and work together for us to be successful as a community."

McGrady said Reynoldsburg was a key spot on the Underground Railroad because of its location and the number of abolitionists in the city. Slaves traveling north from the Ohio River were sent from Columbus along "East Friend Street" (East Main Street) to Reynoldsburg, where the David Graham House, 1312 Epworth Ave., was a major Underground Railroad station, he said.

"There was also a cave off Main Street near Waggoner Road; a room under the Old Primitive Church on South Jackson Avenue and the Alexander W. Livingston seed farm, among others, that provided hiding during the day and transportation at night for escaped slaves," he said. "National African American History Month is a time to tell those stories of freedom won and to honor the individuals who wrote them."

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