York Town Square

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York County, Pa.’s, ‘Civil Rights Heroes – Barrier Breakers’ Mural – Part III

This is the center panel of the three sheets that make up the York (Pa.) City Human Relations Commission’s mural ‘Civil Rights Heroes – Barrier Breakers.’ It features Bobby Simpson, longtime head of York’s Crispus Attucks Community Center. Stephanie Seaton, Human Relations Commission executive director, will give a presentation on the mural, to go along with a panel discussing growing up on West Princess Street in post World War II-era. The event is set for 5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010, at the York County Heritage Trust. Also of interest: Resources for York/Adams history junkies increasingly posted on Web and A short test of your women’s history knowledge and A short test of your York black history knowledge.

The third part in a series – Part I and Part II – of the people of the Civil Rights Heroes Mural of York … .

Four points about the panel:

1. Bobby Simpson – A short bio:
Bobby Simpson, previously a Caterpillar employee, took over leadership of Crispus Attucks Community Center in 1979, after the turnover of several executive directors. Simpson has since headed the agency, and it has become an established center for day
care, housing rehabilitation, economic development, job placement, recreation and a convener of community meetings. On the 50th anniversary of the first black athletes to
play Major League Baseball in 1997, York NAACP President M. Baba Whisler counted Simpson as one of York’s Jackie Robinsons.
2. Bobby Simpson-Jackie Robinson comparison:
Here’s Bobby Simpson’s reaction to Baba Whisler, York County NAACP leader:

Bobby Simpson didn’t know what to say when he heard about Whisler’s assessment. He said he works to be a role model. “I’m not a saint,” he said. “I’ve lived a life that I can tell kids what’s right and what’s wrong based on Bobby Simpson’s experience. My role model is a person who went through the trenches like I did.” Simpson came to CA when the city center was a troubled agency. He has led a transformation at CA, making it more than a rec center. The center helps with day care, housing rehabilitation, economic development and job placement. It also hosts important community meetings on everything from education to racism. Simpson was born the year before Robinson joined the Dodgers. Like (Julia) Hines-Harris, he attended the all- black Smallwood School. He remembers the struggle of integration when he was switched to Princess Street School. At once, his world of black teachers and classmates changed to mostly white teachers and mostly white students. “That was a shock to us,” he said. “We didn’t understand the impact of racism and prejudice. We didn’t know why.” As he grew older, Simpson learned more about Robinson. He learned that not everyone would like him or agree with his decisions, just as Robinson struggled with racist opponents and teammates. He also looked to football greats Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas as role models. He’d listen to their games on the radio. Simpson worries about television’s impact on young people. He believes sports telecasts give the impression that white and black people get along. A closer look, he said, reveals that white players and black players don’t socialize much off the field. That’s one reason Simpson doesn’t believe King’s dream of black and white people living together in peace will come true. “People choose to live where they feel comfortable,” he said. “That’s OK.” (York Daily Record, April 15, 1997)

3. What was the York Charrette, shown on the mural?
See Yorktownsquare.com post: Charrette or charade?
4. Bullet points about the Civil Rights Heroes mural:
Creator: York County artist
Brett Greiman, instructor at
Bradley Academy for the Visual
Arts, now The Art Institute of
York — Pennsylvania
Date: 2005
Unveiling: 24th annual
Frederick D. Holliday Memorial
Owner: York City Human
Relations Commission
Dimensions: Three
4-by-6-foot portable panels.
Concept: The traveling
mural is designed to be interest´
ing as individual sheets or as a
set of three.
Making of the mural: Several students, work´
ing in Brett Greiman’s garage,
projected, enlarged and then
outlined images of the 18
heroes onto the three custom-
created, gallery-wrapped-style
stretched canvases. Greiman
then painted the images in acry´
Artist’s comment: “These
paintings will serve as York’s
monument to men and women
of York who have served the
cause of peace and social jus´
On display: York County
Heritage Trust, 250 E. Market
St., York, until March 13. No
charge to view these panels.
Also of interest:
All York Town Square blog posts from the start.
All York town Square black history blog posts from the start.