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New exhibit at QMA celebrates ‘The Struggle’

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There is much talk of late about the “transforma­tion of America” and how the nation will never be the same after the disasters of Sept. 11.

But the republic already underwent a more fundamental change in the 1950s and ’60s. The civil righgs movement gave leaders, judges, and citizens a reality test, showing that “liberty and justice for all” are empty words if segregation, statuatory discrimination, and opportunities based on anything except merit are tolerated.

Central to the movement — which by no means has ended — were and are the extraordinary people who risked everything to ensure that equality would be the law of the land in practice, not just inscribed on old parchment. Sixteen of these heroes are honored in the current exhibit at the Queens Museum of Art, “The Long Walk to Freedom.”

“One of the important things about this exhibit is that it really focuses on the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement movement, rather than those who were at the forefront who are now in a sense romanticized,” said Philip Jackson, community programs coordinator oordinator for the museum.

The creators of the exhibit, in collaboration with Comunity Works and the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, are students from the Computer School of Manhattan who researched the achievements of the 16 subjects in a two-year series of workshops, “Making a Difference.” They converted their research and admiration into art: murals, time-lines and kiosks. These are lovingly covered with poems, letters, interviews­,photographs of and testaments to Phyllis Cunningham, C. Virginia Fields,Bob Fletcher and Moe Foner, to name a few.

On one panel, studentsexpressed their determination to follow in the footsteps of these activists in the fight for social justice.

At the top of each cube is the statement by Ella Baker, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest…” In the interviews, each honoree adds to the quote to show how he or she is continuing to work in “The Struggle.”

Matt Jones, a singer and songwriter, gave concerts to fund countless marches and freedom rides during the ’60s. He indicates in the exhibit that he still raises money this way for human rights causes and has addedteaching to his long list of activities.

Bob Moses, author and educator, simply added the word “Period” at the end of the quote. Moses recently made headlines when he received the MacArthur Genius award for his pioneering methods in teaching mathematics to underprivileged students.

As an educator in the New York City Department of the Aging, Gloria Richardson formulates policy for programs for the elderly. Richardson also made the news, albeit over 35 years ago, when she helped develop the Five Point Treaty of Cambridge, Mass. The treaty called for the desegregation of public schools, hospitals, buses, and the construction of public housing. It put an end to the racially motivated riots that were destroying that city.

For this and her other contributions, Richardson will be the guest of honor at the testimonial given by the museum, “A Community Evening for the Long Walk to Freedom” starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15 at the QMA in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Many of the honorees are expected to attend. The museum also will pay homage to the late activist and scholar, W. Haywood Burns.

QMA officials say this is the first time the exhibition has been shown in its entirety. The curators have given it a complementary setting: On one side of the Long Walk is the tour de force artwork, The John Brown Series, by master painter Jacob Lawrence. Below that is “Translated Arts,” works on the necessity forindividual freedom.

The exhibit runs through Jan. 27. Call 718-592-9700 for more information.

Reach Qguide writer Loretta Campbell by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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