Sharing stories

Published 2:34 pm Thursday, March 14, 2013

During its third annual Black History Month event in February the Robert “Bob” Hicks Foundation hosted Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson, descendants of Homer Plessy and Judge John Howard Ferguson, the opposing sides of the 1892 landmark U.S. Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson case that strengthened the nation’s “separate but equal” doctrine.

A couple of years ago, the current generation joined forces to establish the Plessy and Ferguson Foundation for Education and Reconciliation. The group’s stated mission is to “create new ways to teach the history of civil rights through film, art and public programs designed to create understanding of the historic case and its effect on the American conscience.”

The Hicks Foundation is working to do just that with regard to local civil rights history, and it’s calling for anyone with a story to tell to make contact for inclusion.

The group, headed by Barbara Hicks-Collins, is producing a film series titled “The Roads We Traveled” to record oral histories with the goal of documenting what Hicks-Collins said should be, but is not, taught in local schools.

“It’s our history,” she said. “It happened. And as painful as it might seem, it can’t be buried in the grave with our fathers and grandfathers.”

The Hicks Foundation has taken on the responsibility of educating the children of Washington Parish to enable them to “learn from the past so they can move forward,” Hicks-Collins said.

On Sunday, a group of nearly 50 people, many of them children, gathered for the first of two showings that day of a special preview of “The Roads We Traveled.” The audience was also sprinkled with some of those shown in the film, including Robert Hicks’ wife Valiera, and Maevella Moore, whose husband, Oneal Moore, the first black Washington Parish Sheriff’s deputy who was shot to death in 1965 in a still unsolved murder that also injured his partner, Creed Rogers.

Tommy Brumfield found a seat early. On the back of his shirt he had written: “Foot Soldier, Mr. Robert ‘Bob’ Hicks Saved My Life.” When asked its meaning, Brumfield became overwhelmed with emotion and said, “It’s a long story. He was there when I really needed protecting.”

The film’s historical photographic images and personal accounts of local residents, or natives who have gone on to more widespread success, inspired a range of emotions.

Participants spoke of an existence marked by hardship, brutality and inequality but emboldened by empowering schoolteachers and determined activists. They touched on subjects including segregation, desegregation, protest marches, the Bogalusa Branch of the Deacons for Defense and Justice and the Bogalusa Voters League.

Executive Producer Hicks-Collins, who was joined on the production side by Ron Collins and Marcinho Savant, said the preview included two or three days of filming local interviews, and she urges everyone else who has a significant story to tell to contact her at bbhicks. or 985-732-7449 for inclusion.

“We need more stories,” she said.

Then she related one recently told to her by her mother, Valiera Hicks, about a 90-year-old woman they had taken to Franklinton during the height of the Civil Rights Movement so she could register to vote.

The very elderly woman was refused admittance to the elevator to the second floor, but she was not deterred. She got on her knees and crawled up the stairs, said Hicks-Collins.

More such accounts of “The Roads We Traveled” are needed to educate and empower the people whose lives were changed by the many large and small acts of courage born of the determination to not accept anything less than true equality, she said.

It is important to know the truth of the past in order to build upon it, Hicks-Collins said. She referred to a quote in which Thomas Jefferson said, “History helps inform us so we can make better decisions in the future.”

After the showing, Valeira Hicks, a pioneer in her own right, rose to say that she has witnessed a change in Bogalusa, where black and white people now work together and count one another among their friends.

Like today’s Plessy and Ferguson, she urges teamwork.

“If we work together, Bogalusa can once again be the Magic City,” Hicks said.

For additional information on the film series, visit