CSC celebrates MLK Day with various speakers, sessions
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while a national holiday, doesn’t seem to be celebrated in a way King would have wanted, according to CSC alum Jovan Mays, the first speaker at CSC’s MLK Day Celebration beginning at 8 a.m. Monday in the Student Center Ballroom.
“What is American complacency?” he asked.
He told the audience to envision themselves in a large room with roughly 100 people. And then he said there was a bomb that went off in this room. There are people directly affected by the bomb while others only feel the blast and those farther from it only hear it.
While he was a freshman at CSC, Mays said he was at a party when someone made a racist comment regarding a new rule in wrestling.
He said there were maybe 50 other people that heard this statement, no one said anything.
The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech. But in doing that, it also leaves open the door to not say anything.
Mays said that the country has decided it is up to the person who is being offended to defend themselves, and if they don’t, we all just walk away like nothing happened.
“This is not the same belief Dr. King would have had,” Mays said. “This is why we’re here today for this talk of ‘I Have a Dream?’ Because if this dream is an actual thing…we have to really start thinking about who we are in these moments of detonation.”
Mays referenced another experience at CSC when there was a racist submission to The Eagle that referred to a friend running for an office.
“It was a very awkward thing. I didn’t know what to do. So I didn’t do anything. That’s American complacency,” Mays said. “My belief is that, when we’re trying to fight against injustices in our own world, that they don’t have to be the big gigantic injustice that we see, the enormous mountain that we see of things that are happening all around the country. To me, I firmly believe that it happens on these fronts.”
Mays finished his speech with a poem that talked about those bigger injustices. It talked about the police brutality and the racism that African-Americans face even today. The most moving part of this was the passion with which Mays gave this poem. It left the roughly 75 attendees quiet for several moments before their applause.
Communication and Social Sciences Assistant Professor Janice Haynes spoke at 9 a.m. about African-American Independent film. She said there was an entire era of African-American silent films that are rarely taught about or even known about, for being such an instrumental part of American history. Most of these films were made in Chicago, rather than Hollywood, Haynes said.
Haynes referenced “Within Our Gates,” directed by Oscar Micheaux, as one of the most important films. The film shows what was happening to African-Americans from the black perspective, including controversial topics such as lynching, rape and interracial relationships.
“The bravery and courage it takes to tell that story and then to show it in theaters,” said Haynes. “That’s significant.”
She said we know of the films because there were black-owned newspapers that advertised for the films, as well as oral accounts.
Now, imagine being forced out of the land that your family owned and forced to live in conditions that aren’t suitable for animals. That was the message that David Christensen, Chadron State history professor, presented at the 10 a.m. session.
The speech was about the Lakota Native Americans and the issues they faced in Western Nebraska. Even though Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the speech showed the parallels and similarities that the Lakota tribe faced at the same time of the Civil Rights Movement.
The conflicts started when the settlers came to Western Nebraska and saw the land and started taking it from the Lakota tribe in various ways, mainly elimination. Years after elimination didn’t work, they made the Lakota tribe live on the outskirts of town and work unskilled jobs like in the beet and potato fields.
Michael Kennedy, CSC communication and social sciences instructor, hosted a discussion and presentation on the impact of photojournalism on civil rights in the late 1900s at 11 a.m. Kennedy showed pictures of significant events that happened during the fight for racial equality in the 1950s and 1960s.
According to Kennedy, one event in particular sparked the Civil Rights Movements of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and many others. This event was the murder, and open casket funeral of Emmett Till. Till was only 14 years old when he was kidnapped, beat, mutilated, shot, and dumped into the Tallahatchie River, for allegedly flirting with a white woman. Till’s mother wanted an open casket funeral for her son, and JET magazine published pictures, Kennedy said. This event could have sparked the momentous events that followed.
One hundred days after the publishing of the pictures of Till’s body, Rosa Parks was arrested and the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, Kennedy said. Then in 1963 the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, President John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address, and King’s “I Have A Dream” speech all took place, Kennedy said. All this happened because some people realized what was going on was wrong, and a change needed to be enforced.
Shaunda French, CSC associate professor of communications, hosted a showing of the documentary “Prom Night in Mississippi” at noon. Attendees watched parts of the documentary and discussed issues such as segregation and racism that still exist in some high schools and communities today.
According to the documentary, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered all schools to integrate in 1954, but Charleston, Mississippi did not allow black students into their high school until 1970, 16 years later. It is clear this school/community is a little behind the times with racial equality.
The documentary shows how Morgan Freeman, a Charleston native, wanted to make a change at the high school in Charleston, where there was still a black prom and white prom, in 2008. Freeman offered to provide the funds if there was only one integrated prom in 1997, but was denied. Freeman offered again in 2008 and his offer was accepted; however, an all-white prom was organized by parents and took place as well.
The documentary also questioned what Charleston high school seniors thought of racism in their high school and community. Freeman asked the high school seniors about their separate proms, “If it’s not what you want, why do it?” The students had no reply.
After watching this documentary for a while, a conclusion can be made that the problem is the parents. If parents continue to raise their children with racist pretenses, what will become of our future? Many children will grow up with the same beliefs as their parents, and the circle of racial discrimination will continue, as we see happening with some of the students in the film.
Children are the future. Like Freeman stated, we can’t survive if we see each other as different, “We are one people.”
At the 3:30 p.m. session of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, Hillary Potter continued and adjusted her keynote address to less of the “kindergarten” version. Potter is an associate professor in the department of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Potter discussed her research notes she’s been gathering from Ferguson, Missouri, since 2014. Her research focused on the unjust nature of unequal imprisonment based on skin color. Potter’s research focused on African-American women, of which 80 percent had been abused or raped by black men, but those women still work to reduce police brutality.
Potter’s research focused around the idea of intersectionality, which is the idea that everyone has multiple identities and those identities cannot be separated.