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PLACE Program to Feature Civil-Rights Activist Opal Lee on ‘Opal’s Walk’ to Washington, D.C.

Published: September 20, 2016

Opal Lee

Opal Lee

Opal Lee, 89, of Fort Worth, Texas, will discuss her symbolic 1,400-mile walk to Washington, D.C., and grassroots effort to promote the importance of Juneteenth at a Program for Learning and Community Engagement SuperLecture on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 5 p.m. in Eagle Lounge of the University Center on the A&M-Texarkana campus, 7101 University Ave., Texarkana, Texas.

Mrs. Lee, a civil-rights activist and retired teacher, is walking 10 miles a day – five each in the morning and evening – to garner support for her online petition calling for Juneteenth to be designated a national day of observance.

Born on October 7, 1926, in Marshall, Texas, Mrs. Lee and her mother moved to Fort Worth when she was 10 years old. She attended Cooper Street Elementary School and graduated from the historic I.M. Terrell High School in 1943 at the age of 16. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1953 from Wiley College (now Wiley University) and returned to Fort Worth to teach at Amanda McCoy Elementary School for 15 years where she was regarded as one of the best educators in her field. At night she worked at Convair (now Lockheed Martin) to support her children. She later obtained her master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance from North Texas State University and served as home/school counselor for Fort Worth Independent School District until her retirement in 1977.

Mrs. Lee is one of the founding members of Citizens Concerned with Human Dignity (CCHD), which was formed to assist the economically disadvantaged in finding housing in Fort Worth. She volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and served as a member of the board. She now serves on Habitat’s Land Acquisition Board. With Lenora Rolla as an inspiration, Mrs. Lee helped establish the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society dedicated to the preservation of the history of the Fort Worth black populace. She served on the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission, AIDS Outreach Committee, Evans Avenue Business Association, Good Samaritans and Riverside Neighborhood Advisory Council. She has served as precinct chair for District 8 for over 30 years, a member of Grandmother’s Club and Ethel Ransom Humanitarian and Cultural Club. She is an active member in her church, Baker Chapel AME, where she serves as a missionary, church school teacher, assistant teacher and deaconess.

Under Mrs. Lee’s direction, the Community Food Bank, formerly the Metroplex Food Bank established in 1982, has literally risen from the ashes of an arson fire of its former facility. Mrs. Lee still personally delivers boxes of food to the elderly and shut ins as she did when the former food bank was unable to operate. The Community Food Bank now services more than 500 families a week at the generously donated 43,000 square foot facility located at 3000 Galvez Street in Fort Worth. Her continued efforts to better the lives of the unemployed or recently incarcerated has led her to develop a farming project to train citizens in the area of husbandry providing education, jobs and fresh vegetables for the community.

For over 40 years, Mrs. Lee and many others have worked to keep and expand the celebration of Juneteenth. Her vision has grown from a single day community picnic at Sycamore Park to a multiday celebration in downtown Fort Worth that includes a parade, breakfast of prayer, honors banquet, Miss Juneteenth Pageant, Health & Job Fair, 5K Run, Art Exhibit, Golf Tournament, Gospel Festival, food vendors, children’s play area and much, much more. She is part of the national movement with Dr. Ronald Myers to have Juneteenth declared a national holiday much like Flag Day or Presidents Day. There are 45 states that recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday.

PLACE is a faculty-led program designed to create a community of learners comprising A&M-Texarkana students, faculty, staff and the community at large. PLACE chooses an annual theme around which to organize a lecture series and other activities that provide focal points for learning and discussion. This year’s theme is “Race and Ethnicity.”

Future PLACE events include the following:

September

  • Wednesday, Sept. 21, 9-10:30 a.m. - Dr. Michael Perri - SuperLecture, “Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois: A Study in Contrasts” - University Center 210
  • Thursday, Sept. 22, 7-9 p.m. - Terry Taylor, Robert Jones, Jasmine Crockett, Lieutenant Thedford White and Officer Latriesha Shanks - Symposium, “Sharing Some Thoughts on African-American Men and the Legal System” - Eagle Hall, University Center

October

  • Monday, Oct. 3, 6-10 p.m. - Dr. Drew Morton - Screening and Discussion, “Color Adjustment” - University Center210
  • Thursday, Oct. 6, 2-3:30 p.m. - Dr. James Presley - “Superfund Drama in Texarkana: The Battle of Carver Terrace” - University Center 210
  • Tuesday, Oct. 18, 12-2:30 p.m. - Dr. Kim Murray – "Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation? A Conversation about Halloween Costumes" - Eagle Lounge, University Center
  • Wednesday, Oct. 26, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. - Dr. Corrine Hinton - SuperLecture, “‘God decreed it so’: The Rhetoric of Destiny in 1963” - University Center 210
  • Thursday, Oct. 27, 7-8:30 p.m. – Dr. Daniel Fairbanks - Everyone Is African: How Science Explodes the Myth of Race - Eagle Hall, University Center

November

  • Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2:30-3:45 p.m. - Dr. Doug Julien SuperLecture, “Digitally Mapping Race in Texarkana” - University Center 210
  • Tuesday, Nov. 1, 6-10 p.m. - Screening and Discussion with Dr. Drew Morton - “Do the Right Thing” - University Center 210
  • Thursday, Nov. 17, 7-9 p.m. - Dr. Leo Chavez - “The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation” - Eagle Hall, University Center

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Michael Perri at mperri@tamut.edu, Dr. Luz Mary Rincon at lrincon@tamut.edu  or Corinne Billings at cbillings@tamut.edu.

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