"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in," said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his speech at the 1959 March for Integrated Schools.
Making the world finer is just what the Boulder County chapter of the NAACP is partnering with the city of Boulder, city of Longmont, St. Vrain Valley School District and the Dairy Center for the Arts — located at 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder — plan to do with a collection of civil rights photography, called “Walk With Me,” all the way from Memphis, TN.
The collection comes from the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery, an archive of more than 1.8 million digitized photos by Ernest C. Withers.
Withers was an African American photojournalist known for documenting the Civil Rights movement throughout the 60s, including images of Dr. King throughout his career.
Madelyn Woodley, a member of the NAACP Executive Committee for African American Cultural Events, or ECAASE, toured the collection last fall and was struck by the depth and power of the photography.
Woodley said she immediately called Annett James, president of the Boulder County NAACP, urging her to come visit the collection immediately. ECAASE committee members took another trip to view the collection in October, Woodley said, and plans were put into motion to bring it to Boulder County.
“We’ll be celebrating Dr. King’s work and his legacy, we’re continuing the hope he espoused. In honor of his birthday, we’re bringing (the Wither’s Collection) here,” Woodley said.
Woodley said the ECAASE and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Planning Committee of Boulder County share a philosophy she referred to as the five pillars — education, celebration, tribute, solidarity and service. By bringing the Withers Collection to Boulder County, Woodley hoped all generations would have an opportunity to learn from the past and how the civil rights movement informs the present day.
“You can’t unlive history, you can’t undo it. It’s history, it really happened,” Woodley said. “What we can do is make it known and make sure our children understand it so they can hopefully keep the work and effort moving forward so it doesn’t repeat itself.”
A curated selection of the Withers Collection will be coming to Boulder’s Dairy Center for the Arts beginning on Jan. 16. Accompanying the collection will be Wither’s daughter, Rosalind Withers, executive director of the Withers Collection. She will also be giving the keynote speech at the unveiling on Jan. 16 at 1:30 p.m. Withers will discuss her father’s work and the importance of remembering Dr. King’s legacy.
Glenn Webb, director of programs for the Dairy Center, said the venue was happy to provide space for the free exhibition. “Walk With Me” is just one part of the Dairy Center’s diverse film selections and performances throughout January and February to honor Black History Month, Webb said.
“We’re happy to be that kind of resource for the community. That’s exactly what the Dairy was meant to be,” Webb said.
The “Walk With Me” exhibition will be free to view at the Dairy Center during its normal business hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m Monday through Friday, and starting at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Docent-led tours will be available Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons, according to Webb. The tours are free and can be scheduled online throughout the exhibit's tenure.
On Jan. 17 at 10 a.m, Woodley, members of ECAASE and Longmont’s Multicultural Action Committee will bring portions of the “Walk With Me” presentation to Silver Creek High School, 4901 Nelson Road in Longmont. The theme of the presentation will be “The Dream … Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”
The keynote address that day will be civil rights attorney Rodney K. Strong, along with a guest appearance by Rosalind Withers. Accompanying the presentations will be music, dance, spoken word and student awards for community service, Woodley said.
The celebration of Dr. King’s legacy has been going on at Silver Creek High School for more than a decade, Woodley explained, praising the high school’s principal, Eric Finnestead, and the leadership of St. Vrain Valley School District for their participation.
Along with the speakers from ECAASE, Mayor Joan Peck will proclaim the week of January 16 through 22, 2022 as “Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Week” in Longmont. There to accept the proclamation will be Judy Huston and Glenda Strong Robinson, both members of the Boulder County NAACP, ECAASE and the Longmont Multicultural Action Committee.
“Walk With Me” will be in the Dairy Center for the Arts through Feb. 27. Each Saturday afternoon, the exhibition will also host “Black Experience in Art,” featuring musicians, dancers and poets along with guided tours of the Withers Collection.