Fight to End Segregation Not Over

Fight to End Segregation Not Over

Mary Frances Berry delivers the annual Louis L. Redding Lecture

In the 1954 landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court said separate but equal education was inherently unequal. Civil rights activist and educator Mary Frances Berry said despite this, segregation in schools persists today.

“[The belief was] that the good white people in America would do that right thing,” Berry said on Thursday, Oct. 25, when she spoke at the University of Delaware’s Mitchell Hall. “If we win the lawsuit and if we win the case in Brown, then segregation will end…. Well that didn’t happen.”

Berry shared these views during her keynote address at the annual Louis L. Redding Lecture, which honors the late civil rights activist and lawyer from Wilmington. Redding was part of the legal team fighting against segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case.

UD President Dennis Assanis shared a bit about Redding and his legacy. Redding was the first African-American attorney admitted to the Delaware Bar, where he served as the only non-white member for more than two decades. In 2013, the University dedicated a new residence hall in Redding’s honor.

“The diversity that Mr. Redding helped create continues to increase our community today,” Assanis said. “We often say that the University was founded 275 years ago in 1743. I like to say that the inclusive excellence pillar of UD was actually founded in 1951 [when black students were first admitted to UD because of Redding’s lawsuit against the university], and that’s an important statement. We are grateful for Louis Redding’s vision and hard work.”

As part of the evening, awards were presented to individuals in the community who have made a difference.

Berry, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, has dedicated her life to fighting for civil rights, gender equality and social justice. She served as the chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 1993 to 2004. A professor and former chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder (the first woman to head a major research university), Berry has decades of experience with race and education.

She drew on these experiences to explain the challenges the U.S. education system continues to face. She focused first on K-12 education — the pipeline to colleges — where she said there is overemphasis on standardized testing. She dubbed the U.S. educational system, “standardized test score junkies.”

“Instead of testing people on what we taught them,” she said, “we test them on what we didn’t teach them.”

This obsession disproportionately affects students of color, particularly black and Latino students, she said. As a result, many end up left behind and never make it out of the pipeline to college. She offered that more teachers must be willing to meet students where they are, instead of teaching from where they are expected to be.

Due to the problems in the pipeline, the pool of college students start off with a diversity problem, Berry said. The number of minority students enrolled to earn degrees is a stark difference compared to the overall population.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 13 percent of black students and 18 percent of Hispanic students were enrolled in a degree-granting institution in 2016. Those numbers are 6.9 percent for Asian students, and less than 1 for Native Americans. These numbers are dismal, Berry said.

She noted that the institutional problems obviously extend outside of education. Speaking particularly of the black experience, she said there continues to be danger in everyday activities.

“It’s not just driving while black anymore,” she said. “It’s living while black.”

Although there is still much work to be done and it can often feel like little progress has been made, she said those who won awards that evening are examples of the change-makers society needs. Her message was just do something.

“If we want to make change, continue — all of you that got awards as well as the other people — to do what you can do,” Berry said. “There’s something you can do everyday. When you see something happening, you can do something, whether you do it surreptitiously or whether you do it out in the open.”

Berry examines these issues as well as other movements she’s been part of in her latest book, History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times.

Honoring Change Makers

During the awards portion of the evening, UD Vice Provost for Diversity Carol Henderson thanked the honorees for their dedication in the fight for civil rights. She borrowed a few words from political leader and activist Nelson Mandela to highlight the impact of the winners.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul — notes great humanitarian, social activist and former president Nelson Mandela — than the way in which a society treats its children,” Henderson said.

2018 Louis L. Redding Award Winners

  • Camille Sims-Johnson
  • Ramona Neunuebel

2018 Recognition of Legends Roll Call

  • Rep. James Johnson
  • Sen. Margaret Rose Henry
  • Raye Jones Avery
  • Beatrice Ross Coker
  • Patricia DeLeon
  • Jane Hovington
  • Lawrence Livingston
  • Maria Matos
  • Jeanne Nutter
  • Terry Whittaker
  • Freeman Williams
Co-winners of the 2018 Louis L. Redding Award, Ramona Neunuebel, assistant professor of biological sciences at UD (left) and Camille Sims-Johnson, director of UD’s Upward Bound Math/Science program (right).
Co-winners of the 2018 Louis L. Redding Award were Ramona Neunuebel, assistant professor of biological sciences at UD (left) and Camille Sims-Johnson, director of UD’s Upward Bound Math/Science program.

 | Photo by Kevin Quinlan | 

Flint Rising: A Call to Protect Our Water and Our Human Rights

featuring Gina Luster, Co-founder of Flint Rising

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 @ 6:00pm

University of Delaware, Memorial Hall, Room 127

Residents of Flint, Michigan, are living with poisoned water in a crisis that has riveted the nation and exposed the deadly consequences of political failure, environmental racism, and indifference to the suffering of low-income communities.

Come hear Gina Luster, a grassroots organizer and co-founder of Flint Rising, a coalition of residents, community groups, labor, and progressive allies that formed in response to Flint’s emergency declaration.

Gina has been featured on PBS NOVA, Netflix, and Norman Lear’s American Divided, speaking out about the problems with Flint’s water and with Michigan’s Emergency Management of local governments.

The Flint Rising Coalition, through resident-to-resident contact and extensive community conversations, addresses the critical health, infrastructure and economic impacts of Flint’s water disaster.

This speaker works to ensure that directly impacted people are building the organizing infrastructure and leadership necessary for this long-haul fight for justice.

Hosted by the Department of Africana Studies Sponsors:

  • Black Student Union
  • Center for Black Culture
  • Delaware Environmental Institute
  • Vice Provost for Diversity
  • Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice

Printable flyer >>

King’s Legacy of Oratory

King’s Legacy of Oratory

When Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, America listened. His legacy is more than his message — it’s the power with which it was delivered.

2016 MLK Communications Contest Kaamilah Diabate hosts the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Communication Contest Sunday at the Baby Grand in Wilmington. (Photo: Jerry Habraken, The News Journal)

Seven teenagers spent Sunday in a Wilmington opera house, speaking the message of their hearts, driven by King’s hope for the future. Fifty years after his death, they channeled his gift for oratory through their own unique talents.

The high school students who participated in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Communication Contest used speeches, rap, poetry and verse to tell their truths. They were charged with reflecting on King’s message of social justice through a modern lens.

“Dear Mr. King, I cannot dream anymore because every time I close my eyes I see children without fathers that will grow to be monsters because their dreams were ignored, and it’s hard. It’s hard to dream when you sleep on the floor ’cause you’re poor, and tell me Mr. King, please, what are their dreams compared to yours,” said Lake Forest High School senior Lester Fair, his letter to King told in a flowing verse earning him second place.

The speeches were passionate, the voices of young people with their own experiences of the nation’s racial divide, of violence on TV and in their neighborhoods. They were colored with both optimism and doubt, parsed out in careful verse or spit rapid fire.

“As I look into the depths of my mirror, I stand there in all my black girl magic and beauty and I wonder, who am I,” said Charter School of Wilmington Sophomore Deborah Olatunji in her third-place speech. “We won’t keep quiet because I am 2018, a year of change.”

Read more — delawareonline (The News Journal)

Hassan El-Amin: Playing MLK Jr. at UD

Hassan El-Amin: Playing MLK Jr. at UD

Hassan El-Amin is Martin Luther King Jr. in UD REP’s “The Mountaintop.” Courtesy of N. Howatt/REP

For an hour and a half nearly every day for a month, Hassan El-Amin is Martin Luther King at the University of Delaware.

He plays the Civil Rights leader on the last night of his life, right after he’s giving his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech and right before he walks out on the balcony of a Memphis motel and is shot to death on April 4, 1968.

It’s an honor, El-Amin says of starring in “The Mountaintop” through Sunday, Oct. 8. It’s challenging. It’s emotionally draining. And tiring. He and his co-star talk for nearly the entire 90 minutes.

It’s also the kind of role that El-Amin lives for.

The 62-year-old actor, who grew up in San Diego and earned an undergraduate degree from San Diego State, got his master’s degree in UD’s now-mothballed Professional Theater Training Program before working in regional theater around the country. He wanted to play classical theater roles, he says.

He came home to Newark last year to join the professional Resident Ensemble Players and since has played a variety of roles in “Gods of Carnage,” “Clybourne Park,” “The Bells,” “Elephant Man” and “Tartuffe,” As MLK in “The Mountaintop,” it’s the first time the show has hung on his shoulders.

Read more — delawareonline (The News Journal)

MLK Day in Delaware

MLK Day in Delaware

Biden, Blunt-Rochester say King’s words still relevant today:

Former Vice President Joe Biden gives the keynote address during the Delaware State Bar Association Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast & Statewide Day of Service Monday at the Chase Center. (Photo: Jerry Habraken, The News Journal)

Five months removed from neo-Nazis marching with torches in hand at one of America’s most prestigious universities, and a day removed from the president of the United States having to publicly state he’s not a racist, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a reminder that the civil rights activist’s words are just as relevant now as they were 50 years ago.

That sentiment was expressed by Delaware congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester and echoed by others, including keynote speaker Joe Biden, Monday morning at the Delaware State Bar Association’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.

The event, one of many in the area to honor the Nobel Peace Prize winner, brought members of the bar, community leaders and elected officials together.

Blunt Rochester, the state’s first woman and first African-American representative in Congress, said she was told to be short and pithy before she spoke at the podium.

“This is not the year for short and pithy,” Blunt Rochester said.

“In this year, I’ve seen that King is more relevant today than ever,” she added. “Because King fought for human rights like health care. Guess what? We’re still fighting for health care. King fought for justice. Guess what? One in three Americans has a criminal record. We’re still fighting for justice. King fought for peace. Right now, we’re concerned with whether or not someone is going to press that big button and blow us all up.”

Biden said he was invited to give the keynote to speak about what lessons learned from Dr. King’s leadership may still be especially relevant today. The former vice president, who some say is using these speaking engagements to elevate his profile for a run in 2020, called King one of his two political heroes along with Robert F. Kennedy….

Read more — delawareonline (The News Journal)

UD members reflect on Dr. King’s Legacy

UD members reflect on Dr. King’s Legacy

Event facilitator and 2015 UD graduate Shyanne Miller presented questions to those attending a MLK Day discussion at Newark United Methodist Church on Monday, Jan. 15.

In 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote an open letter on scraps of available paper while he sat in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama. That now-famous letter was in response to eight white religious leaders who criticized King’s methods and, nearly 50 years after his death, it is often referenced when remembering Dr. King and his legacy.

About 100 people, many from the University of Delaware, gathered at the Newark United Methodist Church on Monday, Jan. 15, to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday.

Seven diverse speakers read aloud from portions of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” The program brought together people from various groups, including the UD community, the Newark branch of the NAACP and elected officials, including Delaware’s U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a UD alumna.

Event facilitator and 2015 UD graduate Shyanne Miller presented questions to those attending, and a microphone was passed around for those who wanted to share their thoughts. After Miller posed the question, “So what is being said here about the white moderate?” Blunt Rochester took the microphone, explaining that she was moved to speak.

“This room tonight is so beautiful,” said Blunt Rochester. “There’s black, white, young, old, millenials, everybody. I just want to thank you.”

The hourlong program concluded with a song. Everyone rose and sang in unison, “We Shall Overcome.”

After the program, event facilitator Miller said she was pleased with the turnout, but there is always more work to be done.

“I’m black. Had I been born maybe 30 years prior, I would have been right smack dab in the middle of the civil rights movement,” said Miller. “The whole point of the civil rights movement was to dismantle Jim Crow. Clearly, if we are still talking about New Jim Crow, everything he said in this letter is completely relevant today.”

Naomi Seinsoth, a member of the church and 1974 UD graduate, said she never read the letter before and found it sobering in light of today’s race relations. Dr. King would have been 89 on Monday; he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

“I was 11 and got on the school bus one morning, and they told us Dr. King was killed,” said Seinsoth. “Nothing’s ever been the same. But his memory is with us.”

Cami Seward (left) and Florine Henderson at Monday’s MLK Day event at the Newark United Methodist Church.

Florine Henderson, who recently retired from the admissions office after working 32 years at UD, said the event allowed her to really reflect.

“I think of all that has been done to help me become who I am, to pave the way for my children and my grandchildren,” Henderson said. “To allow me to be all that I am. I think of the path. The people who have tread the path and made a path through the wilderness for me to be able to stand and be who I am today. People have given their lives for me and I think Martin Luther King was the ultimate sacrifice.”

Cami Seward, a member of the Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow, organized the event. It was modeled after a similar one she attended in recent years at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. This was the first year at the church.

“I’ve been wanting a group in Newark to remember and work with the words of Martin Luther King as they are written in ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’” Seward said. “So, this year it’s come together.”

Day of Service

Next month, Residence Life and Housing, in collaboration with the Blue Hen Leadership Program, will host the seventh annual MLK Day of Service to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

The activity is scheduled on Saturday, Feb. 24, after the spring semester has started to give all UD students the opportunity to serve and honor Dr. King. Students will be able to sign up beginning Feb. 12.

UDaily