Wichita’s Dunbar Theatre and Chester I. Lewis Reflection Park have both had good news this week.
The Dunbar, the historic movie theater and event venue that served Black Wichita from 1941 until about 1963, will receive a $50,000 donation toward its restoration from Walmart.
Lewis Park will get a facelift thanks to the City of Wichita. It’s named in honor of the local African-American attorney who headed the NAACP-Wichita Chapter and Civil Rights efforts, and was also on the legal team for Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.
Walmart will present a check to Dunbar Theater ownership group Power CDC at a ceremony July 15, which is expected to include Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, Kansas Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Power CDC board members and Walmart executives.
On Saturday, July 18, a fundraiser for the Dunbar is scheduled, featuring hot dogs and hot links at a “touch free” lunch outside the theater from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“The donation is part of Walmart’s commitment to investing and supporting the communities it serves, through local giving, volunteerism and programs that strengthen community cohesion,” a news release said.
The Dunbar Theatre, 1007 N. Cleveland, was vacant for decades, but rescued from demolition and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. The facade and signs have been restored and it got a new concrete floor in April.
The revitalization of Chester I. Lewis Reflection Park was announced by Mayor Whipple last week. The news comes months after Lewis’ hometown of Hutchinson dedicated a downtown plaza to him.
City Councilman Brandon Johnson told KAKE News, “We’re actually going to expand the park a bit, I think by an additional 30 feet so it will be a bigger park, and we will have the opportunity with input from the family of Chester Lewis and the local NAACP and others to make sure it’s reflexive of the true history of Chester Lewis.”
The park is a “pocket park” between two buildings on Douglas Ave, featuring a bronze sculpture commemorating the 1958 Dockum Drug Store sit-ins, the first successful student-led lunch-counter protest in the United States.
In May, the Wichita City Council voted on a redevelopment package that included recasting Lewis Park as an entry plaza for a private medical school, The Wichita Eagle reported.
“I think this means so much to our family and to the legacy of my grandfather Chester Lewis,” Malaika Bell told KAKE News. “It’s important that we have a park where young people can come and voice things and to have it utilized, right now the park is underutilized.”
The city has asked for public input on what changes should be a part of the revitalization, you can find the survey by clicking here.