Valada Flewellyn is a featured columnist for The Orlando Times. This article appeared in the March 2-8,2017 issue.
The ROYAL FLUSH
by Valada Flewellyn
Today we come together
In a place too narrow
A world so vast
We are gathered here
For a very specific task
To let go
Every remnant, every fragment
We are here to let go
To release…hatred, bigotry, idolatry
Ignorance, judgement, pain,,
May we flush until
No traces of what divides us remain
Our hearts no longer heavy
Our heads together bow
The message of peace
Around the world
Goes out NOW
WINTER PARK - These words proceeded the ceremonial flushing of racism, ageism, classism, homophobia and other ills and isms. Sunday, February 26th, 2017, at 2pm, the First Congregational Church of Winter Park (FCCWP) and over 100 people gathered to participate in a ceremonial act of solidarity. The ceremony was performed by Reverend Shawn Garvey, pastor of the FCCWP, and Reverend Erika Rembert Smith, pastor of the Washington Shores Presbyterian Church (WSPC). The two pastors stood along with members of the Bridging the Color Divide Committee, Toni Peck, President of the Board of Directors, Crealde School of Art, Fairolyn Livingston, and Hannibal Square Heritage Center Historian, Martha Hall, who recently who won a hard fought battle make her home a historic site in Winter Park and a host of others gathered to flushed away, one by one, the societal ills and ism’s that divide us.
On Reverend Shawn Garvey’s Facebook page he shared: "Today, appropriately on Transfiguration Sunday, with the help and loving presence of many of our African-American Sisters and Brothers we transformed a space at the church designated on a set of blueprints from 1940 as the "Colored Toilet" and reclaimed it as a space for all of God's children forever more. We flushed away the ugliness of who and what we can be and prayed for a more loving, unified future while never forgetting our past. Thanks to the over 100 people who joined us, including Rev. Erica Smith and members from Washington Shores Presbyterian Church, my sweet friend Valada Flewellyn, and members of Bridging The Color Divide and FCCWP. It was an amazing and moving way to close Black History Month.”
This ceremony came in response to a previous "Ahh…Moments” column article, published in The Orlando Times entitled “The Door To The Colored Bathroom”. The article was posted by a member of First Congregational Church of Winter Park on the church’s members only website. Many of the members of the church were surprised to learn about the bathroom and were concerned about what to do with the knowledge. To the church's credit, the decision was made to embrace it, although they admitted to their temptation to erase it. As one member shared, they had considered turning the bathroom into a colorful pottery shed. They were surprised and embarrassed by the startling realization that a colored bathroom existed at the church, given the churches history of a long and fruitful relationship with the African American community.
My family and I attended the FCCWP church services on Sunday where Pastor Garvey read from a document he found in the church archives entitled, “Relations with the Black Community”. The document written in that late 70s spoke of the contributions the church had made to the Black community since its founding. Also included in the archives was the program from an event that took place in the church sanctuary in March of 1947, a "Conference To Defend Democracy In Florida” that was attended by Harry T. Moore and Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune to block an attempt to segregate the vote in Florida.
Personally, I believe that Pastor Shawn Garvey and FCCWP, were divinely chosen to join Pastor Erika Rembert Smith and WSPC, to lead the movement to respect and preserve tangible vestiges of our unpleasant and regretful past, like the colored bathroom. Visible structures like the bathroom, are important reminders of the truths the past. Toni Peck brought her children to the bathroom because she wanted her children to see for themselves what segregation looked like. That there was a day when we allowed ourselves to treat people differently, even in the church, this bathroom was a visible sign of that truth. The “Colored Only" sign was not there, but the memory lingered for those of us who lived it. We felt gratified that we were able to not only attest to the past but by our very presence we were declaring that what was...shall never be allowed to happen again. As expressed by my friend Nina Alloway, “from now on the sound of the toilet flushing will mean something different.” I agree, every time I hear the toilet flush, I will remember what we did at the church that day to “Bridge the Color Divide”. After the ceremony Barbara Chandler, welcomed us with food and conversation at the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, sponsored by EYESEEIMAGES. We sat together on the porch and shared stories and engaged in warm and hearty conversation. Sunday, February 26th, 2017, outside the door of the colored bathroom at FCCWP and on the porch of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center we shared treasured Ahh…moments. Thanks be to God.
The Royal Flush Ceremony Program
- Curator’s Statement
Dr. Myron Moorehead: A MAN A MOMENT A MOVEMENT
Mardi Gras 1999
- This exhibit highlights the events of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club in New Orleans at the turn of the century, (1999) and how one man, Dr. Myron Moorehead, in his position as King of Mardi Gras for the Zulu Krewe, forged a symbolic coming together of the races.
- “In 1999, Dr. Moorehead and his wife, Patricia, reigned as King and Queen Zulu, representing the oldest and most recognizable predominantly African-American Krewe in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras parades. In an era of racial discord, Dr. Moorehead orchestrated the first meeting between King Zulu and King Rex (the most prominent caucasian Mardi Gras King). This powerful and symbolic meeting was credited by the Mayor of New Orleans , as a catalyst that fostered new racial harmony in the city”.*
- A number of the artifacts in this exhibit are from my experience at the 1999 Mardi Gras. Zulu King elect, Dr. Moorehead commissioned me to write a commemorative poem and read it at his coronation. He appointed me “Poet Laureate”. At the coronation, Zulu Queen, Patricia Moorehead presented me with a laurel that she personally crafted for the occasion. That laurel is on display in the exhibit.
- I am especially, grateful to the “Carter, Moseley, Moseley Family” for inviting me to speak at their “Mardi Gras” themed family reunion. Their invitation gave me a reason me to revisit these items which I had stored away. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the incorporation of The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club which makes this an appropriate time to revisit the historical significance of the “toast of the kings”. This historic toast has become a part of the Mardi Gras tradition.
- The “THY KINGDOM COME… exhibit recalls that historic moment in Dr. Moorehead’s reign as Zulu King and the move towards racial harmony that it represents. At this pivotal moment in our nation’s history, let us be reminded that we give nothing up but gain much, when we acknowledge our differences and celebrate our commonalities.
- Realizing that this earthly kingdom is one that we build together as we look forward to eternity, it is my hope that you will appreciate, enjoy and take much from “THY KINGDOM COME…”. Matthew 6:10
- Valada Parker Flewellyn
- Thank you to: Dr. Myon Moorehead, Patricia Moorehead, The University of Central Florida, (UCF), Africana Studies Department, Program Direct, Anthony Major, the University of Central Florida Library, MaQia Simmons, Thomas Flewellyn, Toya Flewellyn and EYESEEIMAGES for making this exhibit possible.
VALADA PARKER FLEWELLYN, CURATOR
Valada Parker Flewellyn is an author, poet and storyteller. Occasionally, she tells her stories through documentary film and exhibits.
“A Pilot Lights the Way”
exhibit based on the first African American Naval Aviator, Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown
National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Fl
( Included in the U.S. Navy's 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation exhibit)
African America Military Museum, Hattiesburg, Ms.
State of Florida Historical Museum, Tallahasse, Fl.
Sanford Museum, Sanford, Fl
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Air & Flight Museum, Kissimmee, Fl
Oakmonte Village, Lake Mary, Fl
University of Central Florida Library
Florida Technical University
The National Black Golf Hall of Fame
Exhibit featured on The Golf Channel, and travels with the annual NBGHF conference.
“Enter Colored Hats”
Sanford Museum, Sanford, Fl
Seminole County Museum, Altamonte Springs, Fl
Univ. of Central Florida Library, Orlando, Fl
Arts Us, St. Paul, Mn
“Praise Reach & Teach”
The story of Joseph N. & Wealthy Crooms, founders of Crooms Academy, the first Negro high school in Sanford, Florida.
“He Shook Hands with Martin L, King”
The life of Atty. James Purdy & Dr. Dorothy Purdy, a powerful couple who were active politically during the Civil Rights movement. James Purdy, ran for the Senate in Massachusetts, he was David Dinkins' college roommate and on the swim team with Andrew Young, all three were on the same Alpha Phi Alpha pledge line at Howard University.
“Dr. John T. Washington: A Man Called”
The life of the first Africa American professor at The University of Central Florida. A building on the campus was named in his honor.
Dr. Alzo Reddick: A Man of Vision
The life of former State Rep. Alzo Reddick, founder of the "Soldiers to Scholars" Program at UCF.
Orlando's First Negro Hospital: The Dr. Phillips Memorial Hospital
(Currently Guardian Care Nursing & Rehabilitation Center)
Most Recent EXHIBIT
*“THY KINGDOM COME: Dr. Myron Moorehead: A Man A Moment A Movement
The story of the last Mardi Gras of the century in New Orleans featuring the monumental toast of the King of Rex and the Zulu King Myron Moorehead on the bank of the Mississippi River, 1999
*on display at the UCF Library, February 2017
Goldsboro: An American Story (2006) and Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown: First African American Navy Fighter Pilot (2010) are documentaries that Valada Flewellyn co-produced with Professor Anthony Major, Director of the University of Central Florida's Zora Neale Institute of Documentary Studies out of the Department of Arts and Humanities.
Valada’s books are Poetically, Just Us (c.1990)
African Americans of Sanford, ( c2010), an Arcadia publication, done is cooperation with the Sanford Historical Society.
Jack & Jill of America Incorporated: Into the New Millennium, the history of the oldest African American family organization, CO-AUTHORS Adelle Wilson Baker and Lillian Seays
"PRAISE, REACH & TEACH..."
DR. MANFORD BYRD, retired superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools was guest speaker at the exhibit opening and general meeting of the Sanford Historical Society (2014).
"A Pilot Lights the Way..." exhibit at
the Sanford Museum, 2011