Monday, February 19, 2018

Diversity group praises play about desegregation

By Jimmy Daniell Isaac
Dec. 5, 2017 at 12:10 a.m.

A recent one-woman play that focused on desegregation in Longview was well received by members of the city's Unity and Diversity group Monday.

Group members learned also that the city has received applications to become the next municipal liaison to Unity and Diversity. Former liaison Keeta King left Longview earlier this fall to assume a radio job in Texarkana.

No timetable is set for when a new liaison will be hired, said Partners in Prevention Manager Holly Fuller, who led Unity and Diversity's monthly meeting Monday.

In November, Elizabeth Michael Melton performed her college research-turned-play "Unpacking Longview," which used three forms of storytelling to reveal oral histories and details about Longview ISD during desegregation. Melton collected oral histories from parents, teachers, students and administrators connected to Longview ISD during desegregation.

She performed the show at the high school's performing arts center named for her father, the late Mickey Melton, who helped create the Longview Race Relations Committee, which eventually became Unity and Diversity.

"There were oral histories I conducted with people in the community, and I performed excerpts of their stories," Melton said, "so people like George Shankle, Nelda Mancha, Dorothy Walker, Janis Canion, different people who were teachers at that time, Doris McQueen, and, of course, the other part was autobiographic, so stuff about my dad, who you all know."

Group members praised Melton's performance and the resulting conversations.

"I just thought it was very, very good," said Richard LeTourneau, "and I could tell that the people around me were enjoying it and immersed in it."

Melton said there were about 300 people who attended over two days of performances. She hasn't decided whether she will publicly circulate a video of the performance.

"I love the idea of storytelling," new member Vance Freeman said, "and I think, narratively, you can do a lot more with civil rights history than just facts. These stories need to be told and … they kind of nest in you if you tell a story."

In other matters, about a half-dozen people have been nominated for the 2018 Unity Honors, Fuller said. A final decision has not been made, but the Unity Honors Luncheon is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Feb. 21 at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center.

Volunteers are planning to hold a Kwanzaa celebration at 7 p.m. Dec. 29 at Longview Public Library.



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