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Order of Eastern Star to present Rosa Parks portrayal

By Ben Calwell, Metro Reporter
Cora L. Hairston of Logan will portray civil rights activist Rosa Parks during the Nazarene Chapter #20 Order of the Eastern Star’s Past Matrons Banquet at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 20, at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 821 B St., St. Albans. Courtesy photo
Parks

In an old, black-and-white photo, you can see the quiet determination in her eyes, the resolve to finally take a stand, or, in this case, to remain seated.

The photo is of Rosa Parks, who, on Dec. 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her bus seat to a white, male passenger. Her resolve to stay seated inspired protests for civil rights across the country. Parks has been called the “mother of the modern-day civil rights movement.”

This Saturday, May 20, at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 821 B St., in St. Albans, Parks, who died in 2005, will come back to life, thanks to Cora Hairston of Logan.

She will portray Parks during the Nazarene Chapter #20 Order of the Eastern Star’s Past Matrons Banquet. The banquet starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 for singles and $25 for couples. Tickets are being sold now and will also be available at the door. Contact Cadaris Woods at 304-722-3076 for more information.

A former teacher’s aide in the Logan County school system, Hairston began portraying Parks about six years ago at Holden Elementary School in Logan. Since then, she has introduced Parks to audiences at other venues around the state, including Chief Logan State Park.

Parks “had always been a legend to me, and I always admired her. It wasn’t hard to see what life she had lived through my eyes. I lived through some of the same trials, so to portray her is an honor,” Hairston said in a phone interview.

Hairston particularly enjoys portraying Parks for elementary school-age children, who might not have any idea who Parks was or what she stood for. Through Parks, Hairston strives to teach them to take a stand for what’s right.

“I want to instill that in children -- a lot of children don’t know our history,” Hairston said.

She recalled portraying Parks for an audience of fourth-graders.

“It was such a warm feeling to see how I held their attention. They were so attentive; there not a peep from them. I get so much joy out of it.”

Since starting to portray Parks six years ago, Hairston, who is in her early 70s, has “enlarged” the portrayal, delving into Parks’ life as an older woman.

“She lived a long life; now, I try to portray her in her latter days and also go back to her trials before the bus ride. I took it to another level; at first, I only did the bus ride scene,” she said.

Hairston said she never stops learning about Parks. Before each new engagement, she mines the Internet and other sources for new information about Parks.

“She has a deep, rich history.”

Hairston herself has an interesting and varied background. According to her biography, she was born and raised in Crystal Brock Hollow in Logan County. A coal miner’s daughter, she graduated from Logan County High School and attended Southern West Virginia Community College.

She worked at the Spiegel Catalog Company in Chicago, then returned to West Virginia and worked at Logan Manufacturing as a seamstress. She was also a teacher’s aide and an employee of Logan General Hospital for 30 years as the radiology coordinator. After retiring in 1997, Hairston returned to school to become a certified nail technician. She was the owner-operator of a nail salon and a ladies’ boutique.

Additionally, Hairston is the author of “Faces Behind The Dust” and “Hello, World, Here Comes ClaraBy Rose,” which are about growing up in a black coal camp. She has also written more than 20 gospel songs.

Chapter Treasurer Cadaris Woods of St. Albans said the Nazarene Chapter #20 Order of the Eastern Star is a charitable organization. The Past Matrons Banquet is open to anyone.

“We’ve been around for a long time. We hold a banquet every year to help fund the statewide scholarship program,” Woods said.

According to a chapter history from Woods, the Nazarene Chapter #20 was organized on June 21, 1921 by Mrs. W.E. McCullom and has been in operation since then.

The Order of the Eastern Star is an auxiliary of the Masonic Lodge, and its members are the wives, mothers, sisters, daughters and widows of a Master Mason. The principles of the Order are based on the Bible.

The chapter helps with Manna Meal, the Salvation Army, Special Olympics and other organizations. The chapter is also active in the Electa Prince Hall Grand Chapter, Woods said.

For more information about the Past Matrons Banquet, contact Woods at cadaris@yahoo.com or call 304-722-3076.


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