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June 19, 2014

CELEBRATING THE STRUGGLE: Division Street event to highlight equality efforts

NEW ALBANY — Those who worked closely with Kathryn Hickerson — the driving force behind restoring Division Street School — recalled how she found it strange that she ever attended the school.

She walked past the white-only schools on her way to Division Street, and as you would expect of a child, had no idea why she was segregated from peers simply because of the color of her skin.

Hickerson passed away in 2006, but she lived long enough to see Division Street restored and reopened.

Her contribution to the community will be one of the reasons to celebrate Sunday.

This is a special year for anniversaries as they pertain to the Civil Rights struggle in the United States. Sixty years ago was the famous Brown vs. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which featured a vote by Indiana’s own Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law.

To commemorate these events, as well as to celebrate black heritage in New Albany, there will be an ice cream social and presentation beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 22. The ceremony will begin at Howard Chapel Baptist Church, which is a traditionally black church located at 1715 E. Market St. near Division Street School.

There will be a presentation including remarks by Vic Megenity, who served alongside Hickerson in the restoration of Division Street School.

He said he will use his time to talk about his late friend, and her dedication to Division Street.

“I’m going to tell her story,” Megenity said.

Organizers are hopeful members of the community as well as former alumni of Division Street will attend Sunday’s program. Following the presentation, a procession will be held from Howard Chapel to Division Street. It will feature people holding signs calling for equality similar to what one might have witnessed during a Civil Rights march half a century ago.

“We want this to be a very bold celebration,” said Bob Wells, one of the main organizers of the event.

Not only is it important to acknowledge the struggle for equality, but it’s also a good time to recognize the impact Division Street School has had over the years, Wells said.

“Because of the vision that Vic Megenity and Kathryn had, this building exists today,” he said.

Every fourth grade class in Floyd County spends a day at Division Street learning curriculum in a setting reminiscent of when the school was in full service.

There will be an ice cream social at Division Street School following the procession. There also will be a film shown with comments from local residents and officials about the Civil Rights movement and its impact in New Albany.

The event is free and open to the public.

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Students who attended the Renaissance Academy's Culture Camp lead other students in an exercise, brainstorming thoughts, fears and opinions of the new learning style and school. The Academy is largely based on projects, working in groups and hands-on education.

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