Helena-West Helena city officials, judges, ministers and a many people from the community gathered at Court Square Park for the Site Dedication Ceremony for the Elaine Massacre Memorial Tuesday, April 10, 2018.
“Welcome and our thanks for everyone being here,” said Walter Darnell. “We’re all here with mixed emotions, as I know most of you are. Yet, we have to move on and this is an opportunity for us to remember something that was very unpleasant, yet a story that must be told. Somewhere it says that those of us who do not remember our history will be doomed repeat it. So we are definitely not wanting a repeat. So thank you so much for coming.”
“With this, I have my good friend and neighbor and school mate the Reverend Leroy Williams to offer a prayer,” said Darnell.
“Our Father as we come, first of all with thanksgiving in our hearts,” prayed Rev. Williams. “Thank you for all things that have been bestowed upon each one of us. We thank you for this an opportunity to remember what happened in Elaine so many years ago. But at the same time, we want to say thanks to the those who have decided to put up the memorial in honor of what took place. We ask you not to let us forget. When our children come this way and ask what meanith this, You can let them know that we passed this way with sweat, blood and tears. We ask that You lead us and keep us in the right mind to move forward. Let us always realize that you want us to show love. We ask you to teach us how to love one another, how to walk with together and not so much how to disagree but on those things we agree on. We just thank you Lord for this place that you have given us and as people pass this way, to let them know that this has happened. We will never forget it, but we must move on in a positive direction,” prayed Rev. Williams. “In Jesus Name we pray Amen.
“First I’d like to thank everyone who came out to experience the process of this project,” said Phillips County Judge Clark Hall. “I’d like to thank the Solomon family for being so generous to remember, to help this part of the community, this part of State prosper and do better. My part in this project has been very small. The work has been done by all of you out there who has put so much time in. My story is simple. Before Mr. Davis Solomon passed away, he invited me to a luncheon. I think he was 99 at that time. Still right minded and on target and could handle a case. He told me this is something he wanted to do. This was something that was important to him. A man whose family has invested over 150 years you have to respect. He has required our respect because he gave so to our community to help those who couldn’t afford to be helped. Davis Solomon gave more back to Phillips County than he ever took out. Because of that, It would be hard to decline or deny what Mr. Solomon’s wishes were. I thought that was a big event. It took me a year of listening too the different ideas that was floated throughout the community from a bell tower, a big ball or it was going to be something else. But when the family unveiled what this project is going to look like, it was inspiring. No one can deny that this represent what happened in our past, but also the future. I didn’t realize until later on, that it was also the aftermath that was so important,” said Judge Hall. “But that all these people were arrested, indicted, tried upstairs on the third floor of this building. They spent years incarserated. They spent years fighting their convictions. Without the help some lawyers and the legal process where we learn that we are a country of laws. And they apply to everyone. That’s what Mr. Solomon in my mind is really trying to tell us, that the laws are ours and they protect all of us. And in doing so this all works together for the whole country. I did not realize this until I talked with the family, that this was the start of the the Civil Rights Movement across this county, all the things that transpired. So we look forward to having another event about a year from now. I hope you all come back.”
“I want to say thank you for coming out and let me say very quickly I will try to get straight to the point, but this means so very much to me,” said Chief U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller. “Some years ago, my brother Kyle said something to me. He said that there is a heavy spirit that hangs over Phillips County. When you cross the bridge and come into Helena, I have friends who tell me this, they say they want to turn around and leave. You have people who grow up here who never come back home. For years we talked about it, we didn’t think much of it. About two years ago there were a group of us together taking about doing something in this park. David Phillips Solomon came to us and said he would help pay for it, but for one thing, that we memorialize and that we honor the people who fell at Elaine.”
“That got me to thinking,” said Judge Miller. “Some of you might not know this, but my great grand daddy was a slave, came to Helena and his son was a doctor. How does that happen? Because when Elaine occurred, and four of my great uncles were killed, my great grandmother packed my grandfather’s up and sent him off to school. He was 13-years-old. He left Helena to go to school and it was that way that he got his education and ultimately came back home. There is a whole branch of my family who left Helena and has never been back. In fact, I’ve never met any of them. So when David came to us and said he would like to do something we put together a group. We started thinking about what could we do that would memorialize all of those people who are laying out there in those empty graves or out there in those graves that are unmarked down in Elaine. My four great uncles were found and brought back up here and given a fair burial. At least a 100 if not more than 250 people down in the south part of this county were thrown in graves that are unmarked. I think when Kyle told me that there is a heavy spirit that hangs over Phillips County, and he didn’t even know what it was. I know we live in a society now that is secular progressive, but I still believe that there is still something about the spirit. I think that heavy spirit is all of those people who have not been given a fair burial hanging over this county.”
“Why is it, and I need to calm down, why is it that we can sit on a Port but not be able to develop?” said Judge Miller. “Why is it that we can have a hospital, a branch of the University of Arkansas, we can have UMAS here, we can have these big institutions in Helena, but for some reason, we as individuals cannot come together? Why is it that we people that we love who are writing articles today trying to stop this event? People we love, who are saying they can’t agree with it. It’s because the spirit, I believe, of those people who have not been recognized or memorized still drifting among us. I think that we are doing today is we are giving those people some rest. Hopefully we are going to memorialize appropriately and give their souls some rest. Hopefully doing that all of us who fight, all of us who will find any reason to pick at each other and fight each other will start coming together and say look, it’s over, it’s time to move on. Hopefully even the people who disagree now, will come on board. We have to continue to love them too”
Judge Miller and Judge Hall then cut the covering off the Elaine Memorial Dedication Ceremony sign.
Reverend Ray Brown gave the Ceremony closing prayer.
“Creator God of past and present and future we bless Your Name for bestowing upon us Your children the gift of memory,” prayed Rev. Brown. “When the Angel of Death past over Egypt and the sea parted for the deliverance of Your people You told them to remember. When 12 disciples gathered in the Upper Room with their Lord, He commanded them to remember. Hence we know that faithful remembering is part of our calling as Your people. As ground is broken this day for this memorial, we pray You will also break the ground of our hearts, souls and minds. So that in remembering we might be made whole as a community and so that Your love of justice would be ours too. In Your Name we pray. Amen."