Circuit Judge criticizes events for 60th anniversary of desegregation of Central H.S.

Pulaski Co. Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen delivers a sermon at his church New Millennium Church questioning and criticizing the events scheduled for the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. (KATV)

Segregation and resegregation was part of an early morning sermon this past Sunday at New Millennium Church in Little Rock.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen, working as reverend Griffen, delivered a sermon titled "We Will Not."

The sermon, posted on Judge Griffen’s blog, takes aim at the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Griffen says progress in not being made.

"The hard truth is that in 2017, the Little Rock School District is more resegregated than it is desegregated," said Judge Griffen.

Among other things, Griffen encouraged his congregation to say “we will not pay lip service to ‘reflections on progress,’” and “we will not lend our moral authority to ceremonies designed to pimp the Little Rock nine.”

"I'm not telling you don't go to hear Mavis Staples,” said Griffen. “I'm just telling you when you go hear Mavis Staples, remember that Mavis Staples can't sing the fact that you don't have any voice in your schools away. Mavis staples cannot sing the four black schools that were closed back open.”

In Griffen's opinion, the commemoration events aren't planned to have honest conversations.

"It's the 60th anniversary, we've got to do something,” said Griffen. “We've got eight of the nine still living. Sixty is a big number. It's a decennial number. Let's have a party."

However, we did mention the fact that panels and presentations that discuss racism, crime and education are scheduled.

But the judge feels honest conversations won't happen there.

"After this week is over, people will go on their merry way, and the people that live in this community will have to deal with the resegregation," said Griffen.

LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore issued a statement to Channel 7 in response to Griffen's comments:

We must never lose sight of the Little Rock Nine and their significant contributions. Their selfless sacrifice, 60 years later, is still worthy of commemorating. While we know that we still have challenges as a district and as a community, we believe that LRSD has made tremendous progress, even in the past year. So, as we pause to reflect on the courageous actions of the Little Rock Nine, we hope to continue to honor their legacy by remaining steadfast in our mission to promote tolerance and our commitment to ensure a quality education for all students.
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