Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in Wilmington.
Walker is one of many civil rights figures who will be recognized for her work during the July 2 Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Legacy Awards Luncheon. The luncheon is one of the first events in the Celebrating the Dream program, organized by Navassa-based nonprofit Countywide Community Development Corporation.
Program director Juanita Harper said Walker requested beachfront accommodations and will be staying in Wrightsville Beach.
Faye Jacobs, a member of the committee that planned the series, said the committee read Walker’s work and wanted the community to know how activism inspired her writing. Walker will receive the Fannie Lou Hamer Blessing for her civil rights work, efforts inspired in part by a meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while she was a student at Spelman College.
Rev. Dr. Corey Tindall Vivian, a civil rights activist who worked closely with Dr. King, will also be honored at the luncheon in addition to individuals from New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, Bladen and Columbus counties who have contributed to the civil rights movement.
The Black & White Opening Gala at Cameron Arts Museum will kick off the series on June 28 with the opening of nationally recognized artist Willie Cole’s “School Pride: The Eastern N.C. Story.” Cole’s exhibit explores the legacy of school and community pride through the lens of 16 segregated schools during the 1960s. Gala attendees will be able to meet the artist, whose father is a Navassa native.
Other events include a day of joint community services on June 27, plus a socio-economic summit and a July 1 civil and human rights summit.
Celebrating the Dream is a five-year program that launched in 2014. Harper said the program is focused on encouraging the next generation to dream big and achieve.
“It’s about building sustainable communities, leaving legacies for young people to embrace … and using the arts and history to get them to understand how to build bigger dreams and work on innovative ideas, even though it might sometimes be difficult,” Harper said.
Jacobs said she hopes the events will help young people connect to the civil rights movement as a real event, not just a story told in the pages of history books.
“Some of our young folks see this movement as a fairy tale, as a story. But this is real life,” she said.
The awards luncheon will take place at the Wilmington Convention Center at noon. Tickets cost $65.