Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Liberty theater legacy at risk from DAI

I have learned something distressing today. And, perhaps, not terrible surprising.

A few years ago, a group of folks, began an effort to resurrect the Liberty Theater to honor its essential part of the city’s racial relations history. Before 1952, according to the “Honor the Liberty” Facebook page, it was the only venue for Latino and African-Americans to see what we now call first-run movies. But, with a caveat — they had to sit in the balcony.

Now, although the renovation effort is gaining traction, that balcony, one of the essential elements in remembering the Liberty’s role in Amarillo, is at risk now that Downtown Amarillo Inc. has gotten involved in the project. According to Keith Jones, one of the key ramrods behind the renovation and memorialization of the building, DAI has now proposed a renovation without the balcony even after Melissa Dailey, DAI’s executive director, assured Jones that the balcony would be preserved. Now, typically, DAI is stonewalling Jones on why the balcony is excluded.

As Jones posted on the Facebook page, “I have yet, despite repeated attempts, to get any information from DAI about why the balcony must go. Do they want us to forget this part of our past? I say no. We must honor our past and all of the pioneers who bravely led us to freedom.”

As Jones also wrote on that page, people can do two things to help. First, “Like” the Liberty’s Facebook page; and, get out and vote in the city’s upcoming election.

I agree. The current City Council has given DAI, the Amarillo Economic Development Corp., the Local Government Corp. and others too much free rein in downtown. It is time to rein them in and the way to do so is to replace the entire City Council.