This week thousands gathered to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Frankfort. DeBraun Thomas files this reporter's notebook.
Two days after I turned 25, I was on the road to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Frankfort, a march that happened a quarter of a century before I was born. As drove down I-64 I reminisced about the meeting with Poet Laureate Frank X Walker where he suggested the idea for a documentary about the March on Frankfort. Before that I had no idea that there was a or who Frank Stanley Jr. was. I was delayed in getting to Frankfort, but when I got to Capitol Avenue I rode a golf cart up to the steps of the capitol building and as Keep on Pushin' by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions played through the loud speakers; I knew then that even though I was delayed in getting there, it was as if I was destined to be there at that moment.
People were holding signs that read ‘We March in Memory of…’ and ‘We March in Honor of…’ in a fashion I had seen similar at the Relay for Life. I had a bit of a moment as I walked by and saw a picture of Frank Stanley Jr. I thought about how so many people had come to the march 50 years later and that he was the one person I couldn’t find very much of anything on when researching for the documentary. Shortly after I ran into Chester Grundy who is the Senior Diversity Advisor to the Dean in the University Of Kentucky College Of Medicine and who also ran the Martin Luther King Cultural center for many years. We talk about the lack of information about Frank Stanley Jr. Grundy said he felt Stanley was less about himself as a figure and more about the movement.
“I just remember him as a mover, a shaker, somebody who really understood the building of an institution and that’s what he did with the Louisville Defender and because it lasts today, it lasts beyond Frank Stanley, so I just have great admiration for people who are able to put their egos aside, understand that it’s not about them personally, that it’s about the uplift and the advancement of their communities, so Frank Stanley was someone who should be honored and what happened today really is a consequence of what he and several other people did 50 years ago.”
Hearing that gave me closure, closure in the sense that, even though the March on Frankfort was HIS idea, he was more about the sacrifice and making a better world for future generations rather than being in the spotlight. I saw a lot of young people with their parents, some who seemed to understand the importance of that day and some who were more interested in eating kettle corn. I was introduced to LaTonya Jones, a member of the Lexington Human Rights Commission, a group that was originally founded by Lukey Ward. Jones told me that day was important for the younger generation to have a connection to the past and not repeat the same mistakes of the past.
“But I think it has the power to connect you in the present in a way that can motivate you to do more with the time you have now because it’s not so different, some of the same struggles are directly connected to what happened back then and I think it speaks to the fact that not a lot has changed and when we rest our laurels and we don’t keep the momentum, we will find ourselves having the same kind of conversation in 50 years, these doors that were opened were supposed to stay open and when we don’t recognize the history and we think that things are fine and we think this is a new struggle we will continue to struggle like its brand new.”
This is a struggle I believe still continues. I saw people of Latino origin holding signs hoping for equality and then Latonya Jones opened up to me and said something quite remarkable about the history of Civil Rights.
“And when we think about Civil rights, a lot of that kind of history is lost, I am a member of the LGBT community and I think we can’t lose that as part of our history, I think it is very important that when we think of human rights, we think of civil rights and we make those connections and when we don’t we find ourselves constantly fighting the same battle.”
The more and more I talked to LaTonya Jones, I thought about Bayard Rustin and thought more about everyone else’s struggle. As Jones said, Civil Rights and Human Rights are one. I walked down Capitol Avenue and I actually got chills. I realized that in my other job working with children I have an opportunity to share this experience with them and hope one day they can watch their kids live in a post-racial society. This has been a long battle for equality and it isn’t over, but that doesn’t mean that same day it won’t be. Curtis Mayfield said Keep on Pushin.' That’s just what we’re going to
have to do.