Two-day symposium marks 50th anniversary of Civil Rights Act

On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson added his signature to the Civil Rights Act, officially putting it into law. Washington State University Vancouver commemorated this landmark legislation on Oct. 29 and 30, hosting a two-day symposium discussing civil rights in America today as well as educating attendees about the Civil Rights Act. The event was sponsored by the Diversity Committee Fellowship Program and hosted by Thabiti Lewis, an associate professor at Washington State University Vancouver who teaches various courses in African-American literature, multiethnic literature and American studies.

The event began at 4 p.m. with the attendees having some refreshments such as coffee, tea and cookies while socializing with others. After refreshments and socializing, there was a screening of the documentary “Mississippi, Is This America?” in the Dengerink Administration Building room 110. The documentary covered the Freedom Summer of 1964, when white college students joined forces with African-American organizers to draw attention to the various murders and crimes committed against African-Americans living in the South during the days of Jim Crow. During that same time, African-Americans also struggled to gain civil rights. In addition to drawing attention to the crimes committed against African Americans, registering African Americans to vote was the main goal of the Freedom of Summer of 1964. Prior to showing the documentary, Lewis spoke about the importance of showing the film and how its message of cooperation against injustice was still important today. After the conclusion of the film, there was a panel discussion about the Freedom of Summer of 1964 and its impact on the civil rights movement as a whole.

The second day of the event hosted another panel discussion, but with different speakers and a different topic. Members of the panel include representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League. Guest speaker Rev. Donald Matthews, a scholar in African-American studies and religion, spoke about the power of change and activism. Matthews’ speech focused on Martin Luther King’s “Beloved Community,” a fundamental concept that envisions a society based upon justice, love for others, and inclusiveness. Josiah Royce, a theologian and an American philosopher, originally conceived the concept during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The “Beloved Community” concept was an important part of King’s philosophy for social change through nonviolent resistance.

According to Kandy Robertson, clinical associate professor and Writing Center coordinator, the two-day event began with a grant provided to the diversity committee fellowship. “The event is a result of a diversity council fellowship grant. So the diversity council funds the majority of this symposium. Our theme this year is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.” Robertson said.

For those who did not attend the two-day symposium but who would like to know more about the event, Kandy Robertson can be contacted by email at kandy_robertson@vancouver.wsu.edu. Thabiti Lewis can be contacted by email as well at thabiti@vancouver.wsu.edu.


Photo features Kandy Robertson

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