HANNIBAL, Mo. -- In light of increasing racial tensions across the country, a handful of Hannibal community groups have joined forces for the first Community Unity Week, which runs through Sunday.
Faye Dant, executive director of Jim's Journey: The Huck Finn Freedom Center, said she decided to organize a community event that promotes tolerance and peace after recent fatal shootings of black men by police and killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La.
"Last week was such a horrendous time with all the violence, hatred and discord around the nation," Dant said. "I'm hoping it'll be a broader community that comes together."
Young people involved with Kids in Motion, a program for at-risk youths, will attend a showing of "Best of Enemies," a Civil Rights-era production put on by Bluff City Theater. Inspired by Osha Gray Davidson's book of the same name, "Best of Enemies" tells the story of Ann Atwater, a vocal civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis, an exalted grand cyclops of the Klu Klux Klan, and their work to integrate schools in Durham, N.C., in the 1970s.
Bluff City will also show "Best of Enemies" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with discounted tickets for those who mention Jim's Journey or use the promo code "jims journey" online. An after-show discussion between the audience and cast members is planned.
Dant said it's important for young people to experience the past, whether it's through the production or through a visit to the Freedom Center.
"When you see things up close and personal, it becomes more real," she said.
The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum also will host a free outdoor concert in front of the boyhood home at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Local artists will perform blues, gospel and rock music.
Community Unity Week also coincides with the Douglass School reunion, held every two years for alumni. Douglass School served African-American students from Northeast Missouri between 1878 and 1959.
Dant said about 200 people from across the country will visit Hannibal on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Alumni will visit the Douglass School site and the Freedom Center. They'll also have an opportunity to experience other Hannibal attractions.
"It's just about exposure and interacting with each other," Dant said.
The Freedom Center, 509 N. Third, also will be open from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.
For more information on Community Unity Week, call Faye Dant at 217-617-1507.