Leah Seupersad, 404-413-1354
ATLANTA — “Carrying the dream… A call for action” was the theme of Georgia State University’s 28th annual MLK Convocation on Jan. 20, which kicked-off more than two weeks of events assembled to reflect on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Hundreds of guests from the GSU community attended the Convocation, which included a viewing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” address and a keynote message from civil rights activist Shirley Sherrod.
“Dr. King was a great leader and he took a step that no one else was willing to take at that time to change the world,” said Micheale Jenkins, a junior majoring in international economics and modern languages. “If he hadn’t done it my parents would not have been accepted because I am of mixed race. He showed me that one person can make a difference. It may take time and struggle, but he had a vision that he knew would follow through, even though he knew he would never see it.”
Sherrod, the former Georgia director of rural development with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), gave a historical and emotional glimpse into her struggle to becoming the first black woman to hold the position, to the hurt she felt when she was forced to resign.
Sherrod became the center of national controversy over allegations that she made racist comments during an address to the NAACP in March 2010. When the full speech was publicized, the excerpts were found to have been taken out of context and Sherrod was offered another position with the USDA, which she turned down.
“We have lots of ethnic groups in our mix and we need to figure out how we can work together to make our communities better and we don’t need the government to tell us how to do that,” Sherrod said. “Dr. King’s dream should still be our dream today,” she added. “We haven’t accomplished what he was fighting for, but there is still time. We should bury the issue of racism in our lifetime, so that we won’t keep sending that generation to generation.”
Sherrod, a native of Baker County, graduated from Albany State University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She also holds a master’s degree in community development from Antioch University. During the 1960s, Sherrod and her husband, the Rev. Charles Sherrod, helped form several land trusts in southwest Georgia. She also served on the board for the Rural Development Leadership Network until 2009, at which time she left to assume her USDA post.
At the Convocation, the 2011 recipients of the Torch of Peace and The Hosea Williams Awards for Community Activism were recognized. The Torch of Peace Awards honors exemplary GSU community members who have demonstrated leadership and service in the promotion of intercultural relations.
The Hosea Williams Awards honors an individual and a community-based organization for their public service efforts.
The university will hold a series of other events through Jan. 31, including a new Diversity Dialogue Dinner at 5 p.m. Jan. 31 in Room 465 of the University Center.
“We are one of the most diverse institutions in the country and this is a place where Dr. King’s dream has come to life, but it has not always been that way,” said GSU President Mark Becker. “It is because of him, others like him and those who have followed in his footsteps, that we can be who we are today and that we can be ever better in the future.”
Starting Jan. 21, Georgia State will also host a Civil Rights Documentary Photography Exhibit by Doris A. Derby, director of African-American Student Services and Programs and an active member of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. The exhibit titled, “Reflections of Women Writers in SNCC – The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee,” photographically portrays the majority of the 52 SNCC women who contributed their personal stories from the 1960’s and 1970’s civil rights movement in a newly published book titled “Hands on the Freedom Plow.”
The grand opening for the exhibit will be held from 3:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 21 in the Student Center Gallery Lounge. A ribbon cutting and artist talk will begin at 4 p.m.
On Jan. 27 at 4:30 p.m., five women writers and activists involved in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) will speak in the Speakers Auditorium of the university’s Student Center. Fay Bellamy Powell, Annette Jones White, Carolyn Daniels, Constance Curry and Doris Derby will reflect on their passion, struggles and personal thoughts as activists involved in breaking down barriers of racism in America during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
The Office of Civic Engagement also will host a variety of community service opportunities from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 28. To participate, volunteers should contact the Office of Civic Engagement at 404-413-1550.
Free tours of the King Center, a nationally recognized historic site, will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 28. Shuttles depart on the top of each hour from the GSU Student Center.
The Convocation and the King Series is being sponsored by Georgia State's Office of the Dean of Students/Intercultural Relations and is supported by student activity fees.
For more information or for a complete list of events, call 404-413-1580 or visit: http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwicr/mlkConvocation.htm.
Published Jan. 24, 2011