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Ida B. Wells Birthday Celebrated

July 16, 2021

Astrid Kayembe, Memphis Commercial Appeal

Ida B. Wells‘ 159th birthday was celebrated in Downtown Memphis this year, with a parade and the unveiling of her life-size bronze statue. Michelle Duster, president of the Ida B. Wells Foundation of Chicago [and Wells’ great grand-daughter], thanked the people who have been carrying on Wells’ legacy through their work in Memphis. “Some people don’t want our stories, our realities, our perspectives to be told, heard or acknowledged,” she said. “But between all of us present today, in the spirit of Ida B. Wells, we will not be silenced. We will not be marginalized. We will not allow our truths, our stories, our experiences to be minimized or erased… What you have created here with this Ida B. Wells statue and Ida B. Wells Plaza is of national significance and a source of pride for our members and the country.” Read full story here

In memory of his great grand-mother, Dan Duster used the occasion to advocate on behalf of death row inmate Pervis Payne. “Knowing and talking about our history is essential,” Duster writes. “But dialogue without action isn’t enough. The Ida B. Wells memorial should inspire us to carry on her legacy and confront the racism, unfairness, and racial violence that persist in the present day.” Pervis Payne is a Black man with intellectual disability who has been on Tennessee’s death row for more than three decades. “[H]is case has all the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction and death sentence, and as a person with intellectual disability, his execution would be unconstitutional. … I implore you to do the right thing; Stand for Justice for Pervis Payne [as Ida B. Wells would do].”  Full opinion piece published in the Tennessean

Two weeks earlier, The Light of Truth Ida B. Wells National Monument was unveiled in Chicago’s Bronzeville. The title of the thirty-foot monument was taken from Wells’ words: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” Writer Christopher Borrelli, of the Chicago Tribune, captures neighborhood responses to the abstract statue

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