"Tough conversations": Louisville residents work to bridge racial divide

·2 min read

Louisville, Kentucky — Ninth Street in Louisville is where the divide happens. West is mostly Black residents, while east is mostly White.

Angie McCorkle Buckler and Cheri Bryant Hamilton grew up on opposite sides of Ninth Street, but they've been coming to the Frazier History Museum on the symbolic street to create a bridge between the city's residents.

There, they attend packed panel discussions about race relations in Louisville with topics from policing to busing.

Though the city is more diverse than ever, segregation has proven stubborn. It's compounded by years of systematic racism — urban renewal, red lining, which suppressed Black homeownership, and over policing.

The panels are organized by Rachel Platt, a former news anchor now running community engagement for the museum.

"They're tough conversations," Platt told CBS News. "Not everybody agrees that a museum should be having them. You have to really be committed to this."

The disagreement is so strong, some have asked the museum to remove Platt from her position. Platt says, "I'm still employed," and stands by a museum's role as an institution of learning.

To those who think there's too much discussion about race, Bryant Hamilton said, "I don't know where they're living."

"May I have your blindfold, please!" McCorkle Buckler added.

One of the panels was about "The Black Six," five men and one woman who were arrested in 1968 during demonstrations after a White police officer beat a Black man at a traffic stop. That sole woman was Bryant Hamilton's mother.

A two-year trial on conspiracy charges stemming from those demonstrations ended when the case was dismissed, but the lives of the six and their descendants were permanently altered.

"That history is not so long ago," Bryant Hamilton said. "You think something happened 50 years ago, 55 years ago, but it could have happened yesterday."

In 2020, Breonna Taylor's killing became a painful reminder of that past. That year, Louisville's mayor declared racism a public health crisis and promised to address issues in the city surrounding segregation.

"I've heard people say, 'Well, but you weren't part of slavery,'" McCorkle Buckler said. "Well, it's these kinds of incidents, the toll and the effect it can have on the families, long lasting for years to come. And so we have to understand that in order to try and meet people where they are."

Bryant Hamilton added: "People are too complacent. They don't realize that we're all in this together. We're going to sink or swim together." On Thursday, the mayor officially apologized to members and family of "The Black Six." He credited the panel session held at the Frazier History Museum with shining a light on this history and opening his eyes to the injustices.

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