PITTSBURG, Kan. — Following the death of George Floyd in late May, as protests and riots broke out in the Minneapolis area before sweeping the country, Gordon Parks High School in St. Paul, Minnesota was among the first institutions to be damaged amid the unrest.
In reading news of the vandalism at the high school, Barbara Ritter, owner of the Boiler Room Brewhaus in Fort Scott, immediately recognized the name. Gordon Parks, an internationally-known photographer, filmmaker, writer, and musician, was born in Fort Scott, where there is a museum dedicated to his memory, and spent his early years in Southeast Kansas before moving to Minnesota.
"He captured with his film and with his photography some moving things during the ‘60s of the racial divide and segregation and things like that," said Barbara’s husband Bryan, who is the brewer at the Boiler Room. "And he captured it in images, and then ultimately became famous to where he was taking pictures for, you know, ’Time’ magazine, and a lot of fashion magazines were asking for him because he just had a real gift."
Parks would come back to Fort Scott every year, Bryan said, and when he died in 2006 he was buried there.
Wanting to help bridge the divide caused by Floyd’s death, Barbara Ritter came up with the idea of brewing a special beer and donating a portion of the proceeds from its sale to help pay for Gordon Parks High School’s efforts to rebuild and recover from the arson and vandalism.
To brew the charity beer, called U&D Ale — a name based on the school’s motto "unity through diversity" — the Boiler Room Brewhaus partnered with the Jolly Fox Brewery in Pittsburg. Barbara Ritter’s husband Bryan was working with Jolly Fox Brewmaster and CEO Joel Stewart on Thursday to begin the brewing process for a 10 barrel batch of U&D Ale, which will be a golden ale, similar to the Jolly Fox’s Gorilla Golden Ale.
On Oct. 14 — which is also the one year anniversary of Pittsburg’s Jolly Fox opening — the Boiler Room will partner with the Gordon Parks Museum for a special event to crack the seal on the first keg of U&D Ale and officially launch the fundraiser. The first customers to buy the beer will also receive a commemorative glass.
Although U&D Ale will only be available locally in Southeast Kansas at the Jolly Fox and the Boiler Room, those interested in supporting Gordon Parks High School will also be able to do so through a fund set up by the Boiler Room. Visit boileroombrewhaus.com or call (620) 644-5032 for more information.