Judge Brian Miller spoke to the audience about the reason for the gathering event. During his address, he held up a grainy photo of four men, bodies lying haphazardly on the ground, all dead. He identified these four men as his great-uncles who had been killed during the course of the massacre.
Miller said he has family members in Chicago he has never met because of the Elaine massacre. Many of his family members migrated North leaving Arkansas to never return. Even though the Elaine massacre occurred over 93 years ago, Miller, his wife, and young son are representative of a family and younger generation who continue to be affected by the events of Elaine’s past.
As the final speaker for the ceremony, Rev. Desi Sims spoke to the other speakers’ eloquent call for remembrance, reconciliation, and healing. Sims also introduced a call to action. His message harkened back to three well-remembered kings, Martin Luther King Jr., King David, and Jesus, human beings who not only forgave but who also took action in recognizing that full reconciliation takes more than words.
Fittingly, as he was called upon to speak to the theme of “community unity,” Rev. Sims outlined a plan for Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church to host an interracial conference. He said here, people could come together to talk about ways in which Elaine and its neighboring communities could do their part in moving families forward in full acknowledgement that history forgotten is history likely to repeat itself. In addition to organizing a unity conference, Sims plans to create a neighborhood watch and have all plans implemented within the next calendar year.
During the church program, the chilly but gentle rain had turned into a biting and windy downpour that made it hard for those in attendance to keep their umbrellas open. Nevertheless, the determination of the people present was evident as no one turned away from attending the last part of the ceremony which took place outside. Strangers huddled together under shared umbrellas, making a scattered circle around several of the ministers in attendance, including, UA Little Rock professor in the School of Social Work and Institute Associate Rev. Dr. LaVerne Bell-Tolliver. The assembled group prayed for the healing of the land. As the crowd dispersed, attendees of the commemoration observed that the weather was appropriate for the occasion, seeing the rain as a cathartic release sent from ancestors who had lost their lives far too soon in the Elaine Massacre of 1919.