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Harrison Holds Two-Day Ceremony to Bury Racism

HARRISON, Ark. -- Harrison has often been associated with supporters of the Ku Klux Klan, but the city is working to bury racism.
HARRISON, Ark. -- Harrison has often been associated with supporters of the Ku Klux Klan, but the city is working to bury racism.

The town held a number of ceremonies Tuesday night aimed at spreading the message of Dr. Martin Luther King. The ceremonies included literally burying a casket, metaphorically burying racism.

Decades ago, Harrsion was a sundown town with signs warning non-whites to be out of town before dusk.

Tuesday at dusk, a peace march was held by people of all colors signifying that the days of old are no more.

"We're a loving community, everyone gets along with everybody, and everyone accepts everybody,” says Mayor Jeff Crockett.

Crockett says even though the values of the majority of residents have changed, the town’s image has remained tarnished, due to an influence from KKK supporters.

"It hurts because people traveling through town don't know town,” he says. “They don't know how we are."

In order to change the tide, the town is holding a number of acceptance-driven ceremonies- like a candle light vigil celebrating the message of Dr. Martin Luther King.

The town also buried racism, metaphorically speaking, by burying a real casket.

"What we want to do is bridge the gap,” says Dushun Scarbrough, with the Arkansas MLK Commission. “Allow these kids to be ambassadors of peace, give them an opportunity to share and love one another."

Scarbrough says the MLK Commission is here to help move the town forward. He feels it's being held back by the influence of KKK Director Thomas Robb, who lives 15 miles out of the city limits.

"I live outside of Harrsion, but supporters live in town,” says Robb.

The KKK director says he's offended by the ceremonies' message and his side not being represented.

"It's all about white guilt and it's all about white genocide,” says Robb.

It’s back and forth.

"I think if I were to have you in the program it would not be as a speaker, but someone who should take heed to what we're trying to teach,” says Scarbrough.

"Our concern, the reason people oppose us it because we don't simply want to go along with your program of white genocide,” says Robb.

Robb says the ceremonies are bringing back up what he calls "100 year old issues that have been forgotten,” but Harrison's mayor says it has to be done to change the town's image for current and future generations.

"It won't go away, because if we leave it alone, the only voice that gets heard is the voice of the hate group,” says Crockett.

Also Tuesday night, many musical acts are played songs written by advocates of the civil rights movement.

On Wednesday, a non-violent youth summit will be held in Harrison, but that's just a small part.

Festivities kick off Wednesday morning at 7:35 at the North Arc Conference Center.

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