Volunteers work at museum on MLK Day

Published 5:35 am Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Volunteers, including children and a member of the Bogalusa City Council, gave their time and energy Monday to work at the Bogalusa/Washington Parish civil rights museum located on East Robert “Bob” Hicks Street.

The museum is located on the site of the historic Hicks house, which played a significant role in the civil rights era in Bogalusa. The Hicks Foundation’s goal is to eventually convert the home into a refurbished museum.

On Monday, volunteers painted part of the house’s exterior, and removed some old drywall from the interior. They also cleaned windows and helped to improve some of the landscaping surrounding the home.

The late Hicks’ daughter, Barbara Hicks-Collins, said it was wonderful to see the community support the museum project. The foundation hosted a similar “Day of Giving Back” last year.

“It’s great to see that the goals of the foundation are working,” she said.

Hicks-Collins said that many of the volunteers were young people, who would have normally been home from school. She also noted that a few citizens were just passing by the house Monday, when they saw the activity and asked if they could help in any way.

“Once we’re finished with all the work, I hope that we can take some time and tell everyone the historical significance of this house and what it means to Bogalusa,” she said.

Hicks-Collins said that the Day of Giving Back was first suggested last year, during a conversation that she had with Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette. Perrette noted that Hicks-Collins was always looking for volunteers to improve the museum site, and Perrette suggested that having a work day on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be ideal. In addition to a day where many citizens are off work or school, it also has a historical connection to Hicks and the history of the house, Hicks-Collins said.

“Although Dr. Martin Luther King never came to Bogalusa, but I know that he was keenly aware of what we were doing here,” Hicks-Collins said.

Bogalusa City Council member Doug Ritchie was one of the volunteers at this year’s project, and was scraping old paint off the house’s exterior early Monday morning. He said that Hicks-Collins asked if he could help with the painting, and Ritchie agreed to secure 20 gallons of paint for the museum. He also performed the ceremonial “first brush of paint” Monday.

“I think this is a worthwhile endeavor because it preserves our community’s history,” Ritchie said.

Among the other participants were members of the Bogalusa High School Jr. ROTC program, volunteers from the Buddy’s House of Dreams nonprofit organization, and chaplains Grace and David Ziegler of St. Tammany Parish.

Although Hicks-Collins said that the painting was unable to be completed Monday, they were able to get off to a solid start. She hopes they will be able to finish the painting as soon as possible.

Cullene Cotton, a 10th grader at Bogalusa High School and a member of the Jr. ROTC cadet program, said she was proud to give her time Monday.

“I feel honored to be giving back to the community,” she said. “I know there is a lot of history that went on in this house, and I’m just happy to be able to help preserve it.”

Ritchie said he was impressed by the volunteerism and work ethic of the young volunteers, including the Jr. ROTC members.

“I feel like our modern world sometimes loses kids, by not involving them in projects like this,” he said. “This ROTC group is very amazing and does so much good for our community.”

The Hicks home was the scene of a Feb. 1, 1965, showdown between the family and the Ku Klux Klan and its supporters. Two white Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) members were staying in the home when the Klan arrived and demanded for the Hicks family to surrender the CORE members.

The Hicks family refused, out of fear that the CORE members would be killed.