Methodist University announces its 2016 Spring Convocation, which will be held 11 a.m. Monday, Feb. 1, in Huff Concert Hall. The event is free and open to the public.
Traditionally, the spring convocation event is a celebration of Black History Month. This year’s event, “Spoken Truth/Spoken Word: Voices for Social Change,” will integrate recent issues in the news with stories of student activism during the Civil Rights Movement. Two faculty members, Dr. Carla Fagan and Dr. Jaunita Heyward, will speak of their experiences as children during the Jim Crow era and as student and adult activists for civil rights.
“People need to hear this so that they can see history is repeating itself,” said Fagan, who is chair of MU’s Department of Social Work. “We are fighting the same battle that we fought 50 years ago for voting rights, civil rights, and the right to life.”
Fagan, who spent much of her youth in Harlem in New York City, saw firsthand the different ways race was dealt with in the South when she came to visit family in North Carolina. As a student at City College in New York City, she was an organizing member of the college’s first black student organization, the Onyx Society. Later, she would go on to work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party.
“The voices of those of us who lived during the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights Movement must continue to be heard so we don’t forget,” said Heyward, who is the coordinator for elementary education and art education at MU. “Things sometime remain the same, just the locations change. We must learn from the past.”
Heyward also lived in New York City as a child, before moving to Mt. Pleasant, S.C., where she encountered things like segregated water fountains. She attended Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., the town that sparked the department store sit-in protests in 1960. As a student, she participated in a solidarity march to support the voting rights march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.
History professor Dr. Peter Murray, one of the event organizers, said he hopes this year’s convocation gets students and community visitors excited about the social issues in today’s news.
“As well has having Dr. Fagan and Dr. Heyward talking about their stories, we will also have students reading poetry related to civil rights,” Murray said.