Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2014

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Ceremony celebrates desegregation of Las Vegas casinos

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The Moulin Rouge opened May 24, 1955. The Moulin Rouge was the first fully integrated hotel in Las Vegas, attracting prominent performers such as Pearl Bailey and Louie Armstrong — who were allowed to perform on the Strip but were banned from gambling or staying at hotels there.

As part of a week’s worth of events honoring the Emancipation Proclamation and civil rights achievements, the Harrison House will hold an event this evening celebrating the desegregation of Las Vegas casinos.

The Moulin Rouge Affair, named for the first integrated resort in Las Vegas, will be 4:30 p.m. at the Elks Lodge 1468, 4100 W. Charleston Blvd.

The event is organized by the Harrison House, 1001 F St., a charitable organization dedicated to neighborhood improvement and the sharing of African-American history in Las Vegas based out of a house where many black entertainers stayed before desegregation.

The Women’s Federation for World Peace will hold a Bridge of Peace ceremony, a ritual of “reconciliation and repentance” symbolizing a step forward and the coming together of communities, said Kimiyo Anceney, chairwoman of the local chapter of the federation.

The ceremony honors the agreement brokered in 1960 between public officials and civil rights leaders, with the help of Las Vegas Sun founder and former publisher Hank Greenspun, that integrated the casinos.

The Bridge of Peace ceremony derives from a sisterhood movement started by the federation in 1992. The first ceremonies brought together Japanese and Korean women divided by years of military conflict and Japanese occupation of Korea. In 1995, the first Bridge of Peace ceremony was held in the United States to commemorate the end of World War II.

Katherine Duncan, president of the Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce and one of the organizers of the event, attended a ceremony in Washington, D.C., and thought it could be useful here. Duncan, who was born on a slave plantation, was asked to meet with a woman who was the ancestor of slave owners. The two talked through their differences and inherited feelings of guilt and persecution to start a “process of healing,” Duncan said.

The event will also include dinner, dancing and exhibits. All proceeds will go to support the Harrison House. VIP reserved seating is $150 and general admission is $25.

Earlier in the week, the Harrison House sponsored a community clean-up and recycling event, and a black storytelling session. The Harrison House is calling the series of events the Emancipation Proclamation Celebration.

The series was planned to coincide with Nevada’s 150th birthday celebration.

“The history of blacks in the state goes back way before the Moulin Rouge agreement and even before Nevada was a state,” Duncan said. “It’s important to connect with that history, to tell the true story of blacks in Nevada and make that history available to the community in order to move forward.”

Rounding out the week of events: Harrison House Golf Challenge, 8 a.m., Thursday, Las Vegas National Golf Club; F Street Fest, 4-9 p.m. Friday; Bones and Blues Festival, Harrison House, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday; and the Gospel Festival, Harrison House, 2 p.m., Sunday.

For more information on all of the events, visit harrisonhouselasvegas.org or call 702-331-5511.

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