McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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July 4, 2014

Local residents celebrate Civil Rights Act

McALESTER — “One, two, three... freedom!”

With those words, children, teens and adults released bunches of black balloons from the parking lot of the Mount Triumph Baptist Church on Wednesday to mark the 50-year anniversary of the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act.

President John F. Kennedy sought the initial legislation, with President Lyndon Baines Johnson continuing to push  for the Civil Rights Act to pass following Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.

The measure finally passed the House and Senate, with President Johnson signing the measure into law in a ceremony held at the White House on July 2, 1964.

Mount Triumph Youth Pastor Rosalyn Jones wants to help ensure today’s youth remain aware of the sacrifices and efforts that went into the civil rights movement. Working with Mount Triumph Pastor Anthony Washington, she arranged for Wednesday’s balloon ceremony.

As the adults inside the church filled the balloons with helium, the youth waited outside in the parking area. Church members attached a card to each balloon that read:

“Thus is an event of the commemoration of ‘The Civil Rights Act of 1964’ — 50th Anniversary today July 2, 2014.

“We are celebrating this historical event by launching balloons of freedom. So if you find this card attached please return it by mailing it to the above address and letting us know where it was found.”

Many of the young people, ranging from toddlers to teens, were obviously excited about the balloon launch. They were also joined by some adults.

As they released the bunch of balloons, a few hit the ground or the roof of a nearby house, but most soared high in the wind, catching a breeze out of the north that carried them in a southerly direction, until they appeared as tiny specks of black  fading into the blue sky.

“Once the wind hits them, they’re gone,” said Johnny Boyce, an adult who helped with the project and who sings with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Choir.

Rodrick White, who will be going into the seventh grade at McAlester Public Schools, had made a commemorative civil rights poster and brought it to the event.

The impetus for that had been a June 5 trip taken on a bus by 20 youth and 16 adult Mount Triumph members to visit the National Civil Rights Museum built around the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had been assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

The trip made a definite impression on young White, inspiring his poster.

“It was a really great experience,” he said. “It was mind-blowing.

“You can learn about it in school, and to actually see it is really amazing.”

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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