Daniel Banks Remarks at Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission Hearing, July 8, 2019
My name is Daniel Banks and I am Co-Founder and Co-Director of DNAWORKS, a Fort Worth-based arts and service organization. I am here to request that the Commission grant the full 180-day delay on the proposed demolition of 1012 N. Main Street, also known as the former Ku Klux Klan Klavern No. 101. At DNAWORKS we subscribe to the ancient Asante principle of Sankofa, that we must go back to retrieve what is at risk of being forgotten, the implication being that if we do not know our past, we have no future.
In his 2017 TED Talk, “Can Art Amend History,” award-winning visual artist Titus Kaphar states, “We cannot erase history. It’s real. We have to know it.” He describes a process of amending history, similar to the process of amending the Constitution—we can see the traces of the past, but with the innovations of the future alongside these reminders. As he explains, “This is where we were; but this is where we are going.” It is this process of transformation that we propose for 1012 N. Main Street—we must know our history, and consciously amend it, in order to have a productive, more peaceful future. As you may be aware, film titan Tyler Perry has done something similar in Atlanta by purchasing a former Confederate army base and transforming it into his film production studios.
We envision that the building at 1012 N. Main Street would become a center for art, culture, entrepreneurship, and history that would serve all of Fort Worth. We propose a community-generated process so that the space would represent the needs and full cultural richness of the city, as it stands at the crossroads of many neighborhoods and groups. DNAWORKS has a fourteen-year history of facilitating precisely these processes in communities in the US and abroad, encompassing thirty-seven states and seventeen countries.
We received a letter of support from the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience. The Coalition was founded in 1999 precisely for the reason of preserving and bringing such sites to public attention. They “build the capacity of these vital institutions through grants, networking, training, transitional justice mechanisms and advocacy” in sixty-five countries, including the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Elizabeth Silkes, the Coalition’s Executive Director, writes:
“Were the city to pause on the demolition decision and consider preserving and re-envisioning the space, we believe that Fort Worth could become a leader in intentionally and positively activating sites such as this one. Not only could the re-envisioned site encourage local community members and visitors to view Fort Worth as a hub of community healing, but it could inspire communities around the world to consider their own contested historic sites as places to be used for activities related to social justice and healing.
The building at 1012 N. Main Street has the potential to be impactful for generations to come. Were it to be envisioned and activated as a site of conscience, this building would stand in the company of other profound member sites around the world, such as the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda, Constitution Hill in South Africa, and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre in Canada…This site has the potential to contribute to a more just and humane future.”
Again, on behalf of numerous supporters from around the world from whom we received letters and with whom we have been in communication, please grant the 180-day delay so that residents of the Metroplex have the time to find a way to preserve this building in order for its history of harm and trauma can be transformed into a future of health. I ask you, if we demolish our sites of conscience, what does this mean for our own individual and community consciences?