By Chasiti Fall
“If you don’t know where you have been you are not able to recognize where you are and definitely do not see where you are going.”—Dexterity 7
FORT WAYNE—The city was in a festive mood last week with lots of activities during the Summit City’s renowned Three Rivers Festival as well as a number of other events, including concerts and other art samplings. But, not everyone was able to participate equally when it came to one particular event held in the city—the Chalk Walk. The local chapter of the NAACP found at that some rules still seem to apply to just a few, while others can break them as they see fit. Perhaps, we still have a ways to go.
Indiana has a colorful history that has brought us to a specific mental state in 2014, that we still have some fine fine-tuning to do, so that we all can have amicable prosperous futures.
The land of Indiana is documented as early as 8000 BC with Native American inhabitants. These migratory tribes thrived for several thousands of years climaxing during the “Mississippi Periods” of 1000-1540 CE. Indiana history includes tales of a place called Fort Ancient with culture that flourished from 1000-1750 CE as a corn (maize) based agricultural society living in villages and building ceremonial mounds.
In the 1670’s the Europeans arrived and claimed the land for the kingdom of France. From 1679-1763 the land was under the rule of the French. Then the land was governed by the British after the Seven Years’ War for about 20 years until the American Revolutionary War. This forced Great Britain to surrender the land to the United States.
The United States government divided the trans-Allegheny region into several new territories. The largest of these was the Northwest Territory, which was progressively divided into several smaller territories by the United States Congress.
On July 13, 1787, the Northwest Ordinance signed The Freedom Ordinance or The Ordinance of 1787 which declared Northwest Territory as the first organized territory of the United States. This marks the day of the first attempt to outlaw slavery in the Territory.
They say rules are made to be broken.
In the meantime in 1800, William Henry Harrison had become the governor of the freshly formed Indiana Territory, with the capital at Vincennes. Harrison, a slave owner, ideally focused to secure ownership over Indian lands in order to allow for American expansion. Specifically, he hoped that the Indiana Territory would attract enough white settlers ultimately leading to statehood qualification.
Harrison negotiated several land cession treaties written in English with American Indians. September 1809 he invited the Potawatomi, Lenape, Eel Rivers, and the Miami to a meeting in Fort Wayne. Miami held out as long as they could, but finally the Treaty of Fort Wayne was signed on September 30, 1809, selling the United States over 3,000,000 acres (approximately 12,000 km²) of Indian Territory, chiefly along the Wabash River north of Vincennes.
This infuriated Shawnee Indian leader Tecumseh, which sparked the Tecumseh’s War. Chief Tecumseh referred to as “one of those uncommon geniuses” was notorious for his great speeches…
“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the … other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before the summer sun … Sleep not longer, … Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves turned into plowed fields? ”—Chief Tecumseh, 1811, “The Portable North American Indian Reader”
His defeat and death in 1813 permitted the influx of white settlers, and Tecumseh’s memory was placed on a silver dollar.
Governor Harrison’s goal was accomplished and Indiana was granted statehood in 1816 as the 19th state. Again they educate us that this made slavery or bondage prohibited now in the State of Indiana. However, those clever devils used the 3/5 law and other politricks to ensure their wealth.
A court ruling in the Michigan Territory in 1807 stated that pre-existing slavery could still exist under the Northwest Ordinance, validated Hoosier slaveholding in the opinions of the slaveholders. In 1820, a Supreme Court of Indiana ruling in Polly v. Lasselle freed all the remaining slaves in the state.
There are US Census reports that account for slave well up until the 1840’s.
Jumping ahead to the time when the visible chains were eradicated but the mental ones were tightening.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded on February 12, 1909 by a diverse group composed of W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, Archibald Grimké, Henry Moskowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, William English Walling, Florence Kelley, a social reformer and friend of Du Bois, and Charles Edward Russell, a well known muckraker and friend of Walling who helped plan the NAACP and served as acting chairman of the National Negro Committee (1909), a forerunner to the NAACP.
The NAACP Mission is “To ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”
The Three Rivers Festival is an annual festival held in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The festival’s run spans nine days in mid-July, always starting on the first Saturday after Independence Day. Inaugurated in 1969 this is a celebration of Fort Wayne heritage established during the Seven Years’ War at the confluence of three rivers: the Maumee, St. Marys, and St. Joseph.
Now that we have had our history lesson let us go to present day.…
Art in the Park is a two-day juried Fine Art Show which signifies the opening weekend of Three Rivers Festival annually. Also during this event, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art hosts the popular “Chalk Walk”.
In preparation for the 2014 Chalk Walk all participants were informed in writing from the Fort Wayne Museum of Art of the current regulations of participation. In respect to logos it stated the following:
• “The FWMoA reserves the right to deem any subject matter as inappropriate for this all-ages, non-commercial event. Inappropriate subject matter includes political or commercial advertisement (statements or logos by non-sponsoring organizations) or subject matter not suitable for children.”
• “Non-compliance with these rules may result in removal from the event.”
Again they say rules are made to be broken.
According to a source familiar with the event, the Fort Wayne NAACP Chapter was contacted via phone by an FWMoA representative about the content of the project she planned on completing for the 2014 Chalk Walk. The NAACP was informed that their seal was a logo that could not be used in the Chalk Walk; However, the organization was willing to pay a sponsorship fee (lowest being $200) they then have rights to do so. The NAACP proposed a second design which as of Jan. 2, 2014 is the image of the United States Mint uncirculated 2014-P Civil Rights Act of 1964 Silver Dollar. This coin was made to commemorate the 50 year struggle of Civil Right Act.
Uncirculated version of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Silver Dollar
This idea was also deemed unacceptable, none the less despite some unpleasantness, NAACP participants felt it best to develop a third idea and comply for sake of an argument and to ensure participation. They called on artist Waset Minkhepera of Gary, Ind., to pull off a last minute design.
The high road was taken; however just as the Headwaters Park area is known for flooding, the Chalk Walk of 2014 was flooded with logos and representation that did not pay for sponsorship. There were even political displays like a differing design for President Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan “Yes We Can”.
Ironically, directly adjacent to the space for the NAACP, a family entered a piece that told of story of the lost ones in their family with the Ford Motor Company logo front and center. There was even an image of a popular game that I play myself called Flow Bridges.
The same representative that spoke to a NAACP representative explained to me that it is hard to regulate nation symbols that people love and have an affinity for. She also eloquently expressed that she felt that this shall provoke changing of the rules for upcoming Chalk Walks to that when one violates the rules they will have authority to paint over the project. I was impelled to maintain the conversation of what occurred in present time, and she directed me to her supervisor.
Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. As a former executive NAACP member of the Clark Atlanta University Chapter, I see the NAACP seal of a national symbol and have an affinity for what it stands for. The NAACP has been a prominent organization in recognizing and initiating change for the people of Black America via politics and public policy.
Everything is in divine order for the third idea made a stronger impact. NAACP members used this opportunity to start the conversation of race in this region by completing the design which corresponded with the current date July 13th in Indiana History.
Minkhepera also entered a Bob Marley piece. Marley symbolizes to many the mental freedom from the oppressing ideologies of society. Marley was a Pan-Africanist, and believed in the unity of African people worldwide. Bob Marley sung of a desire for all peoples of the African Diaspora to unite and fight against “Babylon”, which represents imperialist and colonialist ideals that have oppressed African people through the eradication of their original culture and beliefs.
Charles Shepard, executive director of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, shared with me that it is unfortunate that in these types of community events there are people that follow the rules and there are people who break the rules. He sympathetically apologized that this occurred and appreciated that NAACP volunteers did follow the rules. He shared that he respects what the NAACP stands for and felt that the project that the group completed added a powerful educational piece to the event. He stated that the FWMoA concurs to keep open the conversation and desires people to be conscious of social issues. He also assured me that the Logo Policy shall be revisited after this year.
So that’s where we have been and this is where we are in 2014, hopefully this can help some to see where we need to go. The struggle is real and the journey long. Be mindful that a human being black or white is a product of the society around them.
All and all, Minkhepera and the NAACP volunteers had a worthwhile and memorable experience as they made their mark on the street of downtown Fort Wayne.