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Lucy Kane is one of the longtime residents of South Dallas who was interviewed for a new public exhibit at the Fair Park Music Hall, “South Dallas Stories: Fair Park Uprooted.” Lucy Kane grew up in the Fair Park area in the 50s and 60s. She could only attend the state fair once a year, on what was then called Negro Achievement Day.
Kane shared her memories of the South Dallas Stories: Uprooted Fairgrounds exhibit. Today, she is an independent claims adjuster and knows how the city gave black homeowners in the area less than fair market value for their homes — homes that were later bulldozed so Fair Park could expand its parking lot.
A new exhibition in the lobby of the Music Hall showcases such personal stories of racial injustice. But according to Kane, the exhibition also tells the story of local families and businesses that endured such abuse.
“I’m just overjoyed to see this,” she said. “People should know that there are still people like me, I’ve been here for 75 years and everything was not bad.”
South Dallas Stories is a Broadway Dallas project. This is part of the music host’s efforts to connect with the immediate community.
Ken Novis, group president, said diversity, fairness, inclusiveness and accessibility have been the group’s core goals since he took over six years ago.
“We set out to create partnerships with community groups,” he said. “At the beginning of one of our meetings in South Dallas, some people said, ‘We’re a little surprised you’re here.’ And I said, “This is really, really bad. Because we are here and we want to communicate.”
In particular, he says he was inspired by Jerry Hawkins, chief executive of Dallas Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, who convinced him that by simply preserving and telling such stories, the community could take a step forward—together.
“We can’t make progress,” Novice said, “until we understand what happened before—to bring back what was lost, the spirit, the vitality of the community.”
The story of Dallas’ redline efforts to push black residents away from Fair Park is chronicled in Jim Schutze’s book Adjustment. The book also inspired the off-Broadway drama Travisville by former Dallasite William Jackson Harper. Sunday is the last day of the Soul Rep Theater performance at the Margot Jones Theater in Fair Park.
The opening of the Fair Park exhibit on Thursday was to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 performance at the Music Hall, which he did despite racial protests and a telephone bomb threat.
Kane said that Stories of South Dallas would be “an education for all of Dallas” because it shows that even segregation hasn’t stopped the Fair Park neighborhood from becoming a true community.
Or, as South Dallas landscape designer Stuart Williams puts it in an interview featured at the exhibit: The area was definitely a working area, but “the nature of the area, the people who lived here? There was a lot of pride in the area.”
Arts Access is a partnership between The Dallas Morning News and KERA that expands coverage of local arts, music and culture through the lens of access and justice.
This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by Better Together Foundation, Carol and Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Texas Communities Foundation, Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James and Gail Halperin Foundation, Jennifer and Peter Altabef and The Meadows. Foundation. News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access journalism.