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Five days to celebrate Central, LR Nine

A guide to the coming events.


Events marking the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School by nine African-American schoolchildren started weeks ago, but here's what's happening in the five-day run-up to the commemoration ceremony on Sept. 25 and in days following.

KWENDECHE: To speak on the architecture of Dunbar and Central.
  • KWENDECHE: To speak on the architecture of Dunbar and Central.


'Education by Design: The History and Design of Little Rock Central High School and Dunbar Jr./Sr. High School.'
6 p.m. Dunbar Magnet Middle School, 1100 Wright Ave., preceded by 5 p.m. reception at Pyramid Art, Books and Custom Framing, 1001 Wright Ave., and 5:50 p.m. unveiling of works by Dunbar and Central High School students in the Dunbar Sculpture Garden behind the school building. Free.

The architecture of the Central High School (opened in 1927) and Dunbar (1929) — both the work of Little Rock's Wittenberg and Deloney firm — and how the design was meant to meet educational goals will be the subject of this talk by Little Rock architect Kwendeche and architectural historian Mason Toms, design coordinator for Main Street Arkansas. The event is part of the June Freeman Lecture Series of the Architecture + Design Network and the University of Central Arkansas's "Imagine if Buildings Could Talk: Mapping the History of Little Rock Central High School" project. (See Sept. 23 and 24 events.)


Performance by the CORE Dance Company.
Noon-1 p.m. Arkansas Arts Center Atrium. Free.

CORE, the Atlanta-based dance company whose "Life Interrupted" work was about the internment of Japanese Americans in Arkansas camps during World War II, returns to Arkansas for more site-specific choreographed performances. At the Arts Center, the company will perform in conjunction with the exhibit "Will Counts: The Central High School Photographs," a collection of the famous shots photographic journalist in 1957, including his world-famous picture of Elizabeth Eckford being heckled by white students. The company, company will perform again at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24, at Central's Commemorative Garden.

'William Grant Still's Neglected Masterpiece "Troubled Island." '
7 p.m. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Free.

Opera in the Rock will perform William Grant Still's "Troubled Island," an opera in three acts about the Haitian revolution, with libretto by Langston Hughes and Verna Arvey. Still completed the opera in 1939; its world premiere was March 31, 1949. It ran only three nights; Still was told by a friend that the critics voted to pan the opera because "the colored boy has gone far enough." The composer, who was raised in Little Rock, was the first African-American to conduct a major U.S. orchestra (the Los Angeles Philharmonic). Another first: "Troubled Island" was the first grand opera by an African-American composer to be produced by a major American company, the New York City Opera. Vocalists performing this concert version of Still's opera are Ronald Jensen-McDaniel, Nisheedah Golden, Kenneth Gaddie, Satia Spencer, Candice Harris, Christopher Straw and LaSheena Gordon, with accompaniment by Janine Tiner. Earlier in the day, Arlene Biebesheimer, Opera in the Rock's Artistic Director, will talk about Still's work as part of a noontime "Lunch and Learn" session, also at Mosaic Templars, featuring a selection of recordings of Still's compositions.

Dedication of 'United' Sculpture
1:30 p.m., front lawn of Central High School. Free.

The 2016 Sculpture at the River Market Public Monument Competition donated this sculpture to Central High to mark the 60th anniversary of its desegregation. The work, "United," by Colorado Springs sculptor Clay Enoch, features two figures facing one another and holding incomplete rings. The unjoined rings indicate that there is still progress to be made in race relations, the artist says.

'Civil Twilight: Reflections on Fear, Courage and Resilience,' open rehearsal.
5-7 p.m. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Commemorative Garden, 2120 Daisy L. Bates Drive. Free.

The CORE Performance Company has created a dance/spoken word event, in collaboration with local poets Leron McAdoo and Marcus Montgomery and the Central High Wrighteous Poetry Club to commemorate the desegregation of Central. This is an open rehearsal; the main performance will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 24, as part of the ACANSA Arts Festival.

Central High Tigers Football Game
7 p.m. Quigley Stadium.

The Tigers take on North Little Rock Wildcats.


March for Education
8 a.m. from the "Testament" sculpture of the Little Rock Nine on the grounds of the state Capitol to Central High.

The march, sponsored by HAD2 motivational company, is designed to highlight the connection between the Capitol and the school.

Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Festival, "The Power of Us through Community, History, and Art."
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Dunbar Magnet School, 1100 Wright Ave. Free.

This third annual festival, sponsored by the Dunbar Historic Neighborhood Association, features a health fair, children's activities, Zumba with Miss Lady Magazine, 3 on 3 basketball tournament, Dunbar history exhibit, Dunbar garden tours, Horace Mann alumni oral histories, a poetry slam, an "Old Town Motown Social," food and more.

'Reflections of Progress' symposium
9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Clinton Presidential Center Great Hall. Free.

Circuit Judge Wiley A. Branton Jr., son of the civil rights leader who led desegregation efforts in the 1940s and beyond in Arkansas, is the opening speaker in this symposium in which panels will discuss the events leading up to the 1957 crisis, the "Lost Years" of 1957-1959, and 1959 to present.

'Imagine the Inclusive School of the Future Art Contest'
9:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Central High Visitor Center. Free.

Juried exhibit of work by students in grades 6-12 at Bryant High School, Conway High School, Episcopal Collegiate School, Lake Hamilton High School, Lisa Academy, Central High, Pulaski Heights Middle School, Southside High School (Fort Smith) and St. Joseph Catholic School (Paris), sponsored by the University of Central Arkansas's College of Fine Arts and Communication.

'A Day of Remembrance: The 60th Commemoration of the Desegregation Crisis at Little Rock Central High School.'
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Hampton Building, 1102 Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive.

Bi-annual youth summit sponsored by the John Cain Foundation and the New Africa Alliance with presentations by poet Chris James and others.

Moncrief Institute for College and Career Readiness Forum
Noon-2 p.m. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Former Razorback basketball star Sidney Moncrief's nonprofit Moncrief Game Changer will lead Q&A and small group discussions on banking, education, insurance, entrepreneurship and other topics with high school and college students. Lunch will be served. Registration required; email

Central High School Architectural History Bus Tours
Noon-5:30 p.m. Central High Visitor Center. Tickets free; reserve by calling 450-3451.

See and hear about important sites and their architectural styles in the Central High neighborhood, from the homes of Ernest Green and Daisy and L.C. Bates to the historic Magnolia/Mobil service station across from Central High and more. Buses leave at on the hour from noon to 4 p.m. for the 90-minute tours, developed by historians Dr. Kimberly Little of UCA and Mark Christ and Kylee Cole of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. Repeated at same hours Sunday, Sept. 24.

High school and college student ensemble performances
Noon-6 p.m. Magnolia/Mobil service station. Free.

High school and college student singers will fill the outdoor stage at the restored gas station across from Central High, a project coordinated by UCA and the Oxford American Literary Protect. Hear the UCA Dixieland Band at noon; the Mann Middle School Band, 1 p.m.; the Dunbar Middle School Band, 2 p.m.; the North Little Rock High School Band, 3 p.m.; the Parkview Jazz Band, 4 p.m.; and the Central High School Band, 5 p.m.

'Imagine the Inclusive School of the Future' award ceremony
4-5 p.m. Central High Visitor Center. Free.

While the students sing at the Magnolia/Mobil station outside, winning artworks in the exhibition, sponsored by UCA, will be announced. Show continues through 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24.

Oxford American Jazz Series: 'No Tears Suite'
6 p.m. Magnolia/Mobil Station Station. Free.

This 30-minute jazz ensemble "pop-up" concert features pianist Little Rock Chris Parker's composition, inspired by Melba Pattillo Beals' memoir "Warriors Don't Cry" about her experience as one of the Little Rock Nine. Local jazz artists joining Parker for the performance are: bassist Bill Huntington, drummer Brian Blade, tenor saxophonist Bobby LaVell, trumpeter Marc Franklin, alto saxophonist Chad Fowler and vocalists Kelley Hurt and I/J. Routen. Following the suite's premiere, the ensemble will take on works by Pharoah Sanders, Charles Mingus, John Stubblefield and Sam Rivers.

'Imagine if Buildings Could Talk' video projection and music
7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Central High School façade.

Imagine, if you can, a video projected on the school's facade that uses special effects to transform the entrance with vivid color, animates the statues over the front entrance (representing ambition, personality, opportunity and preparation), and projects historic photographs from 1957 along with visions of the future. Better, go see Scott Meadors' 9-minute 3D mapped video, which will be projected in loops over the evening, with music composed by percussionist Blake Tyson. Both are professors at UCA. (Teaser at Repeated at the same times on Sunday, Sept. 24.


'Mavis Staples Live.'
7-9 p.m. Robinson Center. $45-$65, available through Ticketmaster.

Mavis Staples has been singing about civil rights, Jesus and what it means to an African-American in the South since she was a child in Mississippi. She went on to fame as part of the Staple Singers with her father, Pops Staples, and siblings, and because of that fame, her website tells us, they weren't lynched when they were falsely accused of a robbery at a West Memphis gas station — the police chief recognized them. Stax-era recordings "I'll Take You There" and "Respect Yourself" and her moving "Down in Mississippi" bring down any house; she's an artist you've got to see and if her rousing concert at Christ Church Episcopal in 2013 was any indication, she's still got it in spades. Before Mavis comes on, a community choir will set the joyful mood. The event is a fundraiser for the Little Rock Nine Foundation, a mentorship program for young people.


ACANSA gospel brunch
11 a.m. Wildwood Park for the Arts, 20919 Denny Road. $45.

The 100-voice-strong, award-winning St. Mark Baptist Church Sanctuary Choir will perform; ticket price includes brunch. (See the ACANSA schedule for more information.)

'Children of the Little Rock Nine,' a panel discussion
3 p.m.-5 p.m., Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Ave.

Children of the Nine will take the spotlight as they talk about their parents' role in the 1957 crisis impacted their lives. The event is co-sponsored by the Clinton School for Public Service and the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies.

Interfaith service
5 p.m.-7 p.m. Robinson Center.

Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was baptized and ordained, and other faith leaders will lead a service featuring readings from the Bible, the Mishnah Sanhedrin and the Quran. A community choir led by Darius Nelson of St. Mark Baptist Church and Kyle Linson of First United Methodist Church will sing.

'Civil Twilight: Reflections on Fear, Courage and Resilience.'
6 p.m.-7:15 p.m. Commemorative Garden, 2120 W. Daisy Gatson Bates Drive.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and "Little Rock Nine" opera composer Tania Leon will make remarks at dance/spoken word event with CORE Performance Company (see Sept. 22 entry.)

Complexions Contemporary Ballet
8 p.m., UA Little Rock Center for Performing Arts. $35 ($15 student, military).

Founded in 1994 by two former members of the Alvin Ailey, Complexions is a diverse, experimental company that has performed worldwide. (See the ACANSA Arts Festival schedule for more information.)


Commemoration ceremony
10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Central High School's Roosevelt Thompson Auditorium. Registration required; go to the ceremony link at

President Bill Clinton will be the keynote speaker and the eight living members of the Little Rock Nine have been asked to share their thoughts at this event, held 60 years to the day that the Nine entered Central High School. The auditorium is at capacity, but will be broadcast on monitors in the school's Matthews Gymnasium. Other participants will include Harvard professor and historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., who will give a lecture later in the evening; Governor Hutchinson; Cameron Sholley of the National Park Service; Mayor Mark Stodola; City Manager Bruce Moore; Central High Principal Nancy Rousseau and the student body presidents of LRSD high schools. The Philander Smith College Choir will perform. Parking will be at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds, and a shuttle will be provided.

'Mind Blazin' forum
Noon-1:30 p.m. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. Free, reserve at

Luncheon and forum on educational and social disparities in Little Rock facilitated by poet and public school advocate LeRon McAdoo and his wife, Central High communications instructor Stacy McAdoo.

'Teach Us All'
6 p.m. Riverdale 10 VIP Theater.

The Netflix documentary "Teach Us All," its premiere timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Central's desegregation, examines educational inequality in Little Rock and America then and now using the crisis at Central High as a framework. The film addresses the LRSD's takeover and asks, "60 years later, how far have we come — or not come — and where do we go from here?" The film was directed by Sonia Lowman, produced by the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes and distributed by ARRAY, the film collective that heightens awareness of people of color and women directors.


'Sounds in the Stacks'
6:30 p.m. Fletcher Library, 823 N. Buchanan St. Free.

Piano and sax duo Robert "Frisbee" Coleman and son Franko Nilsson Coleman will perform as a part of the Central Arkansas Library System's Arkansas Sounds project.


'A Conversation on Education in Arkansas with Commissioner Johnny Key and Dean Skip Rutherford.'
Noon. Sturgis Hall, Clinton School for Public Service. Free

Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School, will interview state Department of Education Commissioner Key. Question No. 1: How can the state justify the takeover of a school district with 50 schools because six were out of compliance? No. 2. When with the state return the Little Rock School District to Little Rock? No. 3. Why does he limit conversation with the public to forums like this one? Et cetera.

Jazz in the Park: Rodney Block
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. History Pavilion, Riverfront Park.

Free jazz concert by trumpeter Rodney Block, the final park concert of the season.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters Toast and Roast of Darrin Williams Sr.
5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Metroplex Event Center. $200-$3,000.

Former Central High School student body president and state Rep. Darrin Williams of Little Rock, the CEO of Southern Bancorp, will be honored. The annual fundraiser benefits the Big Brothers/Big Sisters' work with children in need.

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