Annual civil rights conference begins Monday at UT Martin
The Messenger 02.22.08
“Civil Rights 40 Years After Dr. King’s Death” is the theme of the University of Tennessee at Martin Eighth Annual Civil Rights Conference, set for Monday through March 1.
Kathleen Cleaver, law professor and former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Black Panthers, will be the conference keynote speaker and present a lecture, “Civil Rights 40 Years After Dr. King’s Death,” 7 p.m. Thursday in Watkins Auditorium of Boling University Center.
Cleaver began her work with the civil rights movement, working with the SNCC as campus program secretary in 1967. She became communications secretary for the Black Panther Party in 1968 and went on to co-found the Black Panther Party international wing in 1970.
In 1983, Cleaver returned for her bachelor’s degree at Yale University and received a law degree from Yale in 1989. In 1991, Cleaver clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Justice A. Leon Higginbotham. She is currently a senior research associate at the Yale Law School and a senior lecturer in the African American Studies department at Yale University.
Also set during the conference are Native American Civil Rights Day on Tuesday and Minority Affairs Day on Wednesday.
Opening ceremonies will be at 4 p.m. Monday in Watkins Auditorium with a discussion of “Greek Organizations and the Civil Rights Movement.” The showing of the movie “Amazing Grace” will follow at 7 p.m. in Norman Campbell Lecture Hall in Holt Humanities Building. This movie chronicles William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament in 18th century England, and his efforts to end slavery and the slave trade in the British Empire.
Native American Day will begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday with “Caps of Distinction,” led by Dr. Jennifer Levy, Counseling Center interim director, in Room 206AB, of the university center.
A Native American Dinner will begin at 5 p.m. in the student cafeteria of the university center. It will be followed by a music and PowerPoint presentation on Native American civil rights in Watkins Auditorium.
Native American keynote speaker of the evening is Lynn King Lossiah, a longtime activist on behalf of civil rights for Native Americans, an artist and writer. Her most recent book is a collection of spiritual and cultural stories of the Cherokee, “Cherokee Little People: The Secrets and Mysteries of the Yunwi Tsunsdi.” A book and art print signing will follow.
“Honoring Black Writers: A Literary Reading” will usher in Minority Affairs Day at noon Wednesday in the Hortense Parrish Writing Center, Room 209, in the Humanities building. Students and faculty will share short excerpts from their favorite black authors. Light refreshments will be served.
Chris Saunders, president of The Tennessee Equality Project, will present a talk on the civil rights movement’s impact upon gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The talk, co-sponsored by UT Martin Allies, will take place at 1 p.m. in the Student Life Center.
Dr. Mark Simmons, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities, will present a lecture titled, “The Music of the Civil Rights Movement,” at 3 p.m. in Room 204 of the Humanities Building.
The Harold Conner Scholars Civil Rights Dinner, featuring the choir from the Boys & Girls of Northwest Tennessee-Union City, is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Student Life Center.
“Black Student Struggles of 1968 and 1969” will kick off the first of three panel discussions for Thursday from 9:30-10:45 a.m. in Watkins Auditorium, led by Thulani Davis. Davis is a poet, novelist, journalist, playwright and librettist.
Next, panelists Diane Nash and Cynthia Griggs Fleming will discuss “Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement” from 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. in Watkins Auditorium. Nash became the unofficial leader of the Nashville sit-ins in 1960 and helped to found the SNCC. In 1961, she took over responsibility for the Freedom Rides from Birmingham, Ala., to Jackson, Miss. She worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under Martin Luther King Jr. from 1961-65 and served as an organizer, strategist, field staff person, race-relations staff person and workshop instructor.
In 1965, King gave the SCLC’s highest award, the Rosa Parks Award, to Nash and James Bevel. In 2003, Nash received the “Distinguished American Award” from the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation and the LBJ Award for Leadership in Civil Rights from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in 2004.
Fleming is a noted historian of the black freedom movement at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Fleming has written a biography of SNCC leader Ruby Doris Smith Robinson.
Earlene Moore, assistant professor of library science and collection development and interlibrary loan librarian, will moderate the discussion.
The final panel discussion, “40 Years Later: Desegregating or Resegregating?” will begin at 1 p.m. and be led by Ray Stevenson, a mediation specialist, associate minister at Martin’s Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church and a UT Martin adjunct professor. Other panelists include David Belote, assistant vice chancellor and director of student life; Dr. Henry Parker, professor of philosophy; and Gloria Sweet-Love, former state president of the Tennessee NAACP.
The evening will conclude with the conference keynote address, “Civil Rights 40 Years After Dr. King’s Death,” by Kathleen Cleaver. The UT Martin Collegiate Gospel Choir, led by the Rev. Alvin Summers of Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Martin, will introduce the speaker at 7 p.m.
“The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till” will be shown Feb. 29 at 7 p.m. in Campbell Auditorium, followed by a panel discussion. The film is a documentary investigating the murder of Emmett Louis Till. Many considered the case to be the catalyst of the civil rights movement.
A field trip on March 1 to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis concludes the conference. The museum is located at the site of the old Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The Rev. Samuel Kyles, one of the last men to see Dr. King alive, will meet with and talk to students at the outset of their tour of the museum.
For information, a complete schedule or reservations, call (731) 881-7465 or e-mail Dr. David Barber, conference director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.