The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration in the City of Falls Church was headlined by a civil rights movement activist sharing her experiences helping desegregate Northern Virginia with the crowd.
Hosted by the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and the Falls Church Social Justice Committee & Vicinity, residents from in and out of the City attended the fourth annual event that started with a half-mile march from the Tinner Hill arch on S. Washington Street to and ended at the Falls Church Episcopal church.
Following short speeches from Tinner Hill Foundation and Social Justice Committee members as well as a rendition of the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” keynote speaker Joan Trumpauer Mulholland took the stage.
The Arlington native recounted her younger days as a civil rights activist and Freedom Rider in the local area. That included organizing sit-ins from Cherrydale to Shirlington with Howard University students, helping spread the Negro National Anthem to Barcroft Elementary School and attending a secret meeting at the then-Little Falls United Presbyterian Church.
Once, as she described, “all of Northern Virginia was open,” she and fellow activists went to the Glen Echo Park, Maryland and its pools to lead desegregation efforts there. Mulholland also thought it was only fair that she attend Tougaloo College, a black liberal arts university in Jackson, Mississippi, to make integration a two-way street and “Not just a couple of black students at a time going through virtual hell.”
It wasn’t a friction-less effort. Some low points included spending a summer in prison — including a short stint on death row intended to scare her and others who’d been arrested for breaching of the peace. But Mulholland never flinched, simply highlighting how spacious the cells were and how much better the food was.
A short Q&A session following her speech had Mulholland advising grandparents to lead by example when it came to instilling a sense of civic responsibility in their kin. She also dispelled any fears about serving jail time for protesting, because, as she said cheekily, “They’re gonna give you a bed and food. And you won’t have to go to school.”
Check out more pics from the day’s events below: