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October 02, 2007 - Heroes and Sheroes

What: The Little Rock Nine sponsor kick-off & exhibit

Where: Blair Caldwell African American Research Library

When: Tuesday October 2 2007

Time: 5:30 p.m.

Host(s): The Iliff School of Theology

Honoree(s): The Littlerock Nine

Honorary Chairperson(s): Carlotta Walls LaNier, Vincent Harding, Wilma and Wellington Webb

Co-Chair(s): Barbara Baldwin and Al Yates

President(s): Dr. David Trickett

Staff: Mary Underwood, VP of Institutional Advancement; Greta Gloven, Director of Marketing Communications; and Lisa Switzer, Director of Alumni/ae Relations

Welcome: Al Yates, former president, Colorado State University

Speaker: Carlotta Walls LaNier

Catering: The Food Guy Catering

Sponsors: Courage Sponsors: Ball Corporation, Molson Coors Brewing Company & its U.S. Business Unit, Coors Brewing Company, Gay & Lesbian Fund of Colorado;
Hope Sponsor: CH2M Hill
Strength Sponsors: Bohemian Foundation, Chambers Family Fund, Merrill Lynch;
Vision Sponsors: Barbara Bridges, Rutt Bridges Family Foundation, Susan Duncan, Keyline Graphics, Rhondda & Peter Grant, Neusteter Colorado Co./Auer Family Fund, Orbit Design, Mary and George Sissel, Wells Fargo Bank;
Valor Sponsors: 1st Bank, Barbara and Dennis Baldwin, Dovetail Solutions, KUSA, Caz Matthews, Mountain States Employers Council, The Piton Foundation, Jared Polis, Judi & Joe Wagner, Xcel Energy.

Attendance: 200

Attire: Business Casual

Event Coordinator: Greta Gloven

Board of Directors: Board of Trustees: Polly Baca, Barbara Baldwin, Diane Barrett, Grady Booch, Kathy Borgen, Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera, Susan Duncan, Lee Palmer Everding, Rev. Janet Forbes, Rhondda Grant, Barbara Blanton Greene, Dr. James Griesemer, Dr. Frederick Grover, Dr. Vincent Harding, Rev. Naomi Harris, Rev. Youngsook Kang, Anita Khaldy, Wills Long, Janet Manning, Kerry McQueen, Ved Nanda, Rt. Rev. Robert O’Neil, Rev. John Thompson and Suzy Witzler Ex-Officio Member: Bishop Warner Brown; Alumni Trustee: Rev. Dr. Douglas Slaughter; Staff Trustee: Vince Tango; Student Trustee: Jason Kennedy; Faculty Trustee: Jacob Kinnard

Blacktie Photos by: Marcelo Mainzer

 Dennis Baldwin, Barbara Baldwin, Carlotta Walls LaNier and Ike LaNier
Dennis Baldwin, Barbara Baldwin, Carlotta Walls LaNier and Ike LaNier

One definition of hero is "a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.”  On September 4, 1957, a group of nine teenagers earned that title and more. The Little Rock Nine, as they came to be known, were a group of African-American students who enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957 to spearhead the integration of that school.

On the 4th the were turned away, but they returned on September 23. They were met by an angry mob of about 1,000 people gathered in front of the school. The police escorted the nine black students to a side door where they quietly entered the building, as classes were to begin. And that was just the beginning of what these heroes and "sheroes" endured.

Fifty years later and hundreds of miles away, a smaller group gathered, this time not to jeer but to cheer. Hosted by The Iliff School of Theology and held at Blair Caldwell African American Research Library of the Denver Public Library, they gathered for The Little Rock Nine sponsor kick-off of the upcoming “A Celebration of Courage” event on Feb. 26, 2008.

They gathered to view the poignant exhibit that recalled the work that was done in the past. They gathered to talk about the work still to be done. Arriving guests had a chance to view the Little Rock Nine exhibit. Some peeked into the into the larger Black history exhibit on the third floor of the Blair Caldwell Library.

When the foyer was nearly filled, co-chair Al Yates greeted supporters of the Illif School. He began the proceedings by voicing his gratitude to “A Celebration of Courage” co-chair Barbara Baldwin, crediting her with organizing the event. Mr. Yates also thanked Dr. David Trickett and the Illiff School “for their vision and initiative in making this celebration." Mr. Yates continued, “much has happened over fifty years, racism is not as broadly overt as it once was; disparities in education and housing have narrowed tremendously,” he said, “and many, who never could, are now able to dream and to reach without boundaries.” He then stopped before saying “but it must also be said that the stories of Katrina tell us that social justice and equality of opportunity remain the unfulfilled promises of America."

Mr. Yates then introduced former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and his wife Wilma, saying that the Webbs “tell us that there is a better world out there but we have to go out and get it, we have to grab it and make it ours.” The inimitable Wellington Webb spoke first, with the aplomb that marked him as one of Denver’s great Mayors. Mr. Webb spoke of how the Little Rock Nine has profoundly affected him. Mr. Webb spoke of his first hand experience of racism and injustice, but Wellington Webb ended by praising the courage of those people who went before to shine a light on the way ahead. He then turned the microphone over to “The Honorable Wilma Webb.”  Mrs. Webb thanked many people for their participation in the upcoming event and the civil rights movement, however when she acknowledged Carlotta Walls LaNier, and the Little Rock Nine, those in attendance gave an enthusiastic round of applause. Wilma said "these nine teens were able to endure, to persevere and to go forward and be successful, and that is one of the greatest inspirations that the rest of the country could have.” In slow measured words, Mrs. Webb spoke about history and the future, and she said, “we all have to work together to make sure that we don’t regress; that’s the best compliment we could give the Little Rock Nine, to say we refuse to go backwards.”

Denver City Librarian Shirley Amore followed the Webbs; she may have reflected the feeling of many in the room when she said she felt a little bit emotional at hearing their accounts of the past. Shirley thanked library staff who help make the event possible: Gwendolyn Crenshaw and Terry Nelson.

Next on the agenda was Dr. David Trickett, President of The Iliff School of Theology, who gave a brief history of the Illiff School. Mr. Trickett shared that he had been in Arkansas fifty years ago and had watched on television as the nine endured the hostilities of those days. He went on to relate that he had also been at Central High School last week when he the nine returned. David was struck by the legend inscribed on each of four statues that guard the entrance to the school. They read “Ambition, Personality, Opportunity and Preparation. He said, “I was thinking each of those words actually represents the nine as they embodied what they did fifty years ago.” He went on to thank those that did the “heavy lifting” for the event and the exhibit: Greta Gloven, Mary Underwood and the trustees and the sponsors. Before introducing Carlotta Walls LaNier, David thanked the nine and everyone involved.

Carlotta Walls LaNier is a woman whose ready smile and elegant bearing give testament to the strength it takes to be a leader and an icon for fifty years in the struggle for civil and individual rights. Carlotta had also been taught at home “that once you have an opportunity, go for that golden ring.” She related that she knew that Central High had everything and that it was one of the most beautiful schools in America. So when she had an opportunity to go that school, she said ”I took that opportunity” and smiled, “without even telling my parents.” She went on to relate those historic days from a uniquely human perspective. One could hear the teenager that she was, who just wanted to get the best education she could, without realizing the history she and the other nine were making. She finished by appealing to everyone to attend “A Celebration of Courage, the Little Rock Nine and Their Civil Rights Legacy” on Feb. 26, 2008. She said, “This will be the first time, outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, the Little Rock Nine will be presented to the community." Mrs. LaNier thanked everyone for coming and was greeted to long and sincere applause.

Last on the agenda was co-chair Barbara Baldwin, who thanked all the sponsors individually and asked for a round of applause for all of them. Barbara said that the message that she had heard over and over again is “As we pause to reflect on the events of fifties years ago, let us cooperate in the days ahead on the journey of peace reconciliation, justice and dignity for all."

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