Parade promises a long-denied but better-played tribute

By Diane Brown, IU Communications Specialist:

It’s been a long time coming, but on Saturday, the 1955 Crispus Attucks High School state championship boys basketball team will finally get its public due.

For the first time in the 500 Festival Parade’s 58-year history, it will make a planned stop on Monument Circle. Twenty-first-century technology will allow the world to witness the sights and sounds as members of the Attucks team get the on-the-Circle celebration they were denied following their historic 1955 win.

Traditionally the Indiana champs would parade through downtown Indianapolis on a city fire truck and then party on the Circle. But Jim Crow and his relatives — Racism and Ignorance — had other plans for the Attucks team.

No parade for Attucks team

Greatest champs, but no parade for Attucks team: Indianapolis Recorder, March 26, 1955.
From Indianapolis Recorder Digital Collection, IUPUI University Library

After one trip around the monument, a police escort ushered the victory parade into a black neighborhood park for their party.

Now, 60 years later, the team has been designated the 2015 IPL 500 Festival Parade grand marshals.

It is much too late to assuage any disappointment, sadness or even anger that the Attucks teens had to swallow as they were denied the traditional honor awarded state champs. But perhaps the fact that today’s 24-hour Internet news cycle, smartphones and YouTube will give people around the nation front-row seats to this weekend’s celebration might, for those boys long since turned men, cast aside any lingering dregs of that bitter drink.

About 300,000 spectators are expected to line the streets for the parade. Another million will watch on TV, locally via WTHR or nationally on NBC Sports Networks.

Ten members of that winning Attucks team and two cheerleaders are scheduled to participate in the parade. Their coach, the late Ray Crowe, will be there in the hearts and minds of those who say he played a pivotal role in their journey from boys to men.

Recorder picks Attucks to go all the way: Indianapolis Recorder, Feb. 19, 1955. From Indianapolis Recorder Digital Collection, IUPUI University Library

Recorder picks Attucks to go all the way: Indianapolis Recorder, Feb. 19, 1955.
From Indianapolis Recorder Digital Collection, IUPUI University Library

Crowe didn’t just prepare them to be champions on the court; he prepared them to win at life, team members said at ‘A Championship Tribute’ at IUPUI last month.

Basketball Hall of Fame member Oscar Robertson and other members of the 1955 team were speakers at the tribute, which included the dedication of new IUPUI outdoor basketball courts and a panel discussion on the team’s life and times in segregated Indianapolis.

If you didn’t attend, and you’ve since visited the outdoor site, you are probably wondering where the plaque is that honors the Lockefield Gardens Dustbowl, a community playground court where Robertson and others played years ago.

If you had a seat under the packed tent, or stood in the grass to witness the dedication, you’re privy to the fact that IUPUI and its community partners are putting more time into crafting just the right words for the historical marker.

Better to take the time to get the words right, tribute organizer Tralicia Powell told the audience.

The snafu surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. monument in D.C. is a case in point.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, Washington, D.C. Photographer, Diane Brown

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, Washington, D.C.
Photographer, Diane Brown

The majestic King statue no longer bears the “I was a drum major for justice, peace, righteousness” as shown in the picture accompanying this writing.

The quote was taken out of context and “makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit,” said the now-deceased Maya Angelou in a Washington Post interview.

Additional striations have replaced the contested words on the King monument. That process was cheaper and safer for maintaining the structural integrity of the sculpture, said its creator, Lei Yixin.

Once the community group working on the IUPUI Dustbowl marker agrees on the plaque’s wording, they’ll forward the text up the appropriate administrative chain for university approval and the marker will go up.

I’m quite sure it won’t take 60 years.

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