Friday, December 10, 2010

Field Trip Streetscape Gerber Sculpture Tour

Downtown Wichita has an amazing bronze sculpture walk. There are 31 sculptures in all. All of them are life size. I wasn't sure how much the kids would enjoy this field trip. They loved it.
This was Little Mans favorite.
Bugs favorite also. She is in a horse phase now. This was a fun one it has girl leading a pony that children may mount and a dog at the side of the pony.
A boy riding a scooter with Little Man and a friend hopped right on!
This one was my favorite a guitar playing street musician. There is stool in the corner but, Little Man was fascinated with the guitar case. Numerous other sculptures spread through the four block area, including a businessman cooling his feet in a small fountain, cows standing at an intersection, two children playing with constantly over-flowing flowing cups of water, a girl playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, and others.
 The centerpiece sculpture is a full sized old-fashioned Soda Fountain, in bronze, complete with a number of seated patrons and a waitress behind the counter. You can even bring your lunch and eat while seating at the counter. Which I am told is a regular lunch spot.
I didn't realize that Wichita had a peaceful protest. Not being a native of Kansas I am still learning the history. It is named the Dockum sit in. Here are a few facts that we found about it during our research for school. The information is from this site.

July 19, 1958, several black teenagers, members of the local NAACP chapter, entered the downtown Dockum Drug Store (then the largest drug store chain in the state) and sat down at the lunch counter. They were ignored. They kept coming back and sitting at the counter, from before lunch through the dinner hour, at least twice a week for the next several weeks. They sat quietly, creating no disturbance, but refusing to leave without being served.
The store tried to wait them out by ignoring them. They kept coming back and sitting there, silently, day after day, waiting to be served. On one occasion three police officers tried to coerce and intimidate the teenagers to leave, and succeeded. But they came back, and the police did not return. They were breaking no law, only a store policy, and the store was not willing to challenge them directly.

A group of local white toughs came by trying to intimidate them. The police were called to break it up but left immediately without challenging the whites, saying they had instructions to keep their hands off. After an emergency phone call a group of local black men arrived, armed, to defend the protesters. The white youths retreated, leaving the store.

And the young people kept coming back and sitting there at the lunch counter, silently, day after day, waiting to be served.

They asked for help and support from the national NAACP, but the national organization refused to endorse or even acknowledge their actions. The confrontational tactic was against NAACP policy. The national news wires picked it up and the story went out on the national wire, but few papers ran it and it quickly vanished.

On August 11, while the early arrivals were sitting at the counter waiting for their friends to show, a white man around 40 walked in and looked at them for several minutes. Then he looked at the store manager, and said, simply, "Serve them. I'm losing too much money." He then walked back out. That man was the owner of the Dockum drug store chain.

That day the lawyer [Chester Lewis--see updates below] for the local NAACP branch called the store's state offices, and was told by the chain vice-president that "he had instructed all of his managers, clerks, etc., to serve all people without regard to race, creed or color." State-wide. They had won, completely. Their actions inspired others, and the sit-in movement spread to Oklahoma City. By the middle of 1959, the national NAACP was losing disaffected members for refusing to endorse the scattered but spreading sit-in protests, gave in, and sponsored the Greensboro sit-ins.

Nineteen months before the Greensboro sit-ins that have been credited with being the start of the civil rights sit-in movement, it really began at a downtown drug store in Wichita, Kansas. The Dockum sit-ins were largely ignored by the NAACP in their archives, probably out of embarrassment, and were unknown even to many civil rights historians. That error was corrected by the NAACP this summer.

It was a great lesson for the kids to learn about discrimination and civil right. We had a good talk about the subject. Not what I thought would be the main lesson from the field trip but, a worthy one that I couldn't ignore. That's what I love about homeschooling. When the kids starting asking why we can go steer a lesson in that direction.
The kids where pretending to have a soda while seated. One of the mom's was playing the waiter.
They even have sculptures on the stop lights. It was a lot of fun having the kids search for the small ones through out the field trip. Some unexpected.

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