ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke Hidden Histories launched a project on May 21 that has been over a year in the making. Hidden in Plain Site is a virtual experience that allows viewers to visit historic Black sites around the Star City and learn about erased and forgotten parts of local history.
Users can visit places like the Dreamland Recreation Center, a hub for Roanoke’s Black community during segregation; they can visit Henry Street in its prime, where the hustle and bustle of Black businesses like the Dumas Hotel made Gainsboro a travel stop for stars like jazz artist Dizzy Gillespie.
Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd has been leading this project from the beginning, and said they fundraised more than they needed to put together the documentary experience and build a statue honoring local historic figure Henrietta Lacks, so they decided to make the project as accessible as possible.
“We decided why not just do a showing, a screening, all over the city with that extra money and not charge anybody,” said White-Boyd, who added that the project is both a healing experience and an educational one.
“Talking about this and talking about the experiences and what people went through and some of the pain, I think it’s good for the community,” she said. “I think it’s good for us to know this history so we can heal and understand it.”
She said people who see the site can learn about the things in Roanoke’s past that aren’t always taught.
“They can understand why a lot of the Blacks in our community are still very, very hurt, very disappointed, understand our frustration because this is real, it did happen,” she said.
The launch event was sold out, with a crowd of 150 people arriving at the Dumas Center in Gainsboro over half an hour early for the event.
If you missed the launch event, you can attend one of the other showings at the Grandin Theatre, on August 16, and at the Jefferson Center, on September 28.