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Johns celebration, forum underway

Two events in the Heart of Virginia, the inaugural Barbara Rose Johns Day celebration and a forum exploring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will take place over the next several days, Robert Russa Moton Museum Director Cameron Patterson said.

Cameron Patterson

The celebration, taking place Sunday at the Firemen’s Arena at 1328 Zion Hill Road from 1-6 p.m., will be for all ages and will include activities for youth and food among other features.

“It will be a great event for families,” Patterson said.

Johns was 16 when she led a walkout at Robert Russa Moton High School in 1951 to protest education inequality in the area. The case from Johns and fellow students, Davis v. Prince Edward County, was one of five cases, and the only student-led case, included in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, which made segregation of public schools unconstitutional.

During the celebration, Prince Edward County High School’s (PECHS) drama department will perform two showings of its production of “B Rose,” a musical written by PECHS Drama Department Director Debbie Rush.

Patterson said while he has not seen the performance in person, he said members of the Moton Museum staff have seen it.

“They have great things to say about what the students have done,” Patterson said. “We’re excited to have them share this with the community.”

He noted that the celebration is a little different from events the museum has had in the past, and said he looks forward to bringing the celebration to honor Johns’ legacy to the area.

“I think it will be a great way to outreach to the community and to celebrate Ms. Barbara Johns and all that she did to advance educational equality,” Patterson said.

Virginia’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission, a bipartisan agency of the Virginia General Assembly, will hold a forum Tuesday, 6 p.m. at the First Baptist Church on 100 S. Main St. titled “Beloved Community Conversation.”

Patterson said the commission has hosted several forums throughout Virginia at places King has visited in the Commonwealth.

Patterson noted that King visited First Baptist Church in March of 1962.

The forums, he said, are to honor the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, which took place April 4, 1968, and to ask the question posed by King in his final book, “Where do we go from here?”

“We will talk about and reflect on Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community,” Patterson said.

The forum will be moderated by state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, chair of the commission. Panelists, Patterson said, will be First Baptist Church Pastor James Ashton; Prince Edward County Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Clark; Prince Edward County Branch NAACP President James Ghee; Moton Museum Council Chair Dorothy Holcomb; Patterson and Hampden-Sydney College Elliott Professor of Religion Dr. J. Michael Utzinger.

Farmville Mayor David Whitus will give an opening address, Patterson said.

“I’m looking forward to the event here in Farmville,” Patterson said, noting there have been recent forums in Richmond and Charlottesville. “Not only do you reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, but I believe that we have an opportunity to talk about our community, what we hope for it, what we’ve done and what’s still left to be done.”