North Philly Freedom Fighters get back to marching
Protesters who broke the color barrier at Girard College turn attention to violence for Girard Cares Day.
THEY ARE gray-haired now and approaching 70, but the Cecil B. Moore Freedom Fighters, who protested the all-white policies at Girard College nearly 50 years ago, are marching again.
But the protest, this time, is against violence.
"This march is going to remind people we still have to fight back and we have to show courage," Meldorn Shamlin, president of the Freedom Fighters, said this week.
"We want to stop the crime and stop the killing of our children," said Shamlin, 68. "We're showing men they need to get out of the house and protect our kids."
The march today is to start at 9 a.m. in front of the North Philadelphia NAACP office, on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 16th, and end up at Girard College, a boarding school for elementary and high school students, on College Street near 21st.
The former protesters will be joined by representatives of Beech Interplex, a community-development company, and members of the 22nd Police District.
They will all take part in the fourth annual "Girard Cares Day," a spring-cleaning day of service where students and family members paint, plant and help fix things at the school.
Tamara LeClair, Girard College's director of admissions and community partnerships, said the school has been working with the Freedom Fighters for six years.
"They have provided workshops on the history of the Freedom Fighters," LeClair said.
They also are regular volunteers at the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service at the school.
After the march and cleanup, the school will provide lunches and there will be entertainment until 3 p.m.
The marchers said they are devoted to the legacy of Cecil B. Moore, an ex-Marine from West Virginia who came to Philadelphia in 1948. He attended Temple Law School at night while working during the day.
On Wednesday, the Freedom Fighters observed Cecil B. Moore Day, at the Cecil B. Moore branch of the Free Library. Mayor Nutter proclaimed the day in honor of Moore because May 1, 1965, was the first day of the Girard College protest that Moore led for seven months and seven days, the marchers said.
The boarding school was founded by a bequest from Stephen Girard, a French-born banker and merchant who died in 1831. His will provided for a school for "poor, white, male orphans."
In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled the will could be broken and the first black male students enrolled that September. Today, the school is predominantly black and boys and girls are enrolled.
Shamlin said they use Moore's name in the Freedom Fighters name to keep "that kind of image and legacy alive.
"We want people to know this kind of man lived in your community, right here in North Philadelphia. He lived on Jefferson Street, near 17th. . . . He could have lived anywhere. But he chose to live in the heart of the problem."