November isn’t an ideal time to throw a parade. I wonder if the City of Winston-Salem or Miss America Inc. is to blame for Saturday’s spur-of-the-moment parade? A grand parade in the spring planned out over many months that would have been nice.
If Miss America, Nia Franklin came to town a few weeks ago, she could have been part of Pride Winston-Salem’s parade. That would have been amazing!
Saturday afternoon’s parade, though modest, was noteworthy. Winston’s own, Nia Franklin paraded up Fifth Street from the WFU Innovation Quarter to the Benton, wearing a sash that read “Miss America.” The crowd was small in size, but enthusiastic.
It was a proud moment for Winston. Franklin is a symbol of upward mobility in a city and county that if you are born poor in, “the odds of you getting up and out of poverty are worse than nearly anywhere else in the entire country.”
As we celebrate Nia Franklin, we have to admit that we’ve failed many children in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County.
Even though the parade was a little thin, it was great to see Downtown Winston Black again. As Miss America’s car crossed Church Street* I couldn’t help but reflect on the progress African Americans have made in Winston over the years.
Still, unfortunately, Winston-Salem remains two separate cities, unequal and divided. For a good examination of the racial and economic divide in Winston-Salem, see the Urban League’s, State of Black Winston-Salem, 2017.
Saturday’s Miss America parade should remind anyone who knows Winston’s history of Lawrence Joel’s homecoming parade on April 8, 1967.
The parade for Winston’s most decorated war hero drew an estimated crowd of 30,000 to honor Joel. A couple of years after Joel’s death in 1984 the Board of Alderman voted to name the city’s new coliseum after him. When the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum opened in August 1989, it was intended as a gesture to help heal the racial divides in Winston-Salem.
Sadly, after another parade honoring an outstanding person of color from Winston, I couldn’t help but wonder if the goal of ending racial inequality in Winston has been abandoned.
Entrenched poverty east of Highway 52 remains Winston-Salem’s most pressing issue, though it is often side-stepped by many of the politicians who came out to honor Nia Franklin on Saturday.
In February 1986 both of the county’s two VFW posts opposed the City’s new coliseum being named after Lawrence Joel.
*Winston’s racial dividing line before Urban Renewal policies that removed Black folks from what is now the Innovation Quarter was Church Street. Now, of course, it is Highway 52.