Civil Rights month begins, Trotter visits, more events set for April

By Karlee Dies
Staff Writer/Spectator

Martin Luther King Jr once said, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men - yes, black men as well as white men - would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” in his “I Have A Dream” Speech in 1963 in Washington, D.C. 

Just one year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. 51 years later, we are celebrating the anniversary of the signing of this ground breaking act. 

During the month of April, the social work department will be celebrating Civil Rights Month as well as Social Work Month. The theme for the National Association of Social Work Month is “Helping People: Help Themselves.”

“Social work as a profession is concerned with the pursuit of social justice as a vehicle to bring about change to address the social and economic injustice that poor and vulnerable people experience in our society,” said Dr. Margaret Smith, assistant professor in the department of social work. 

“Commemorating civil rights provides the opportunity to acknowledge how far societal responses have evolved in addressing institutional discrimination related to religion, level of physical and mental abilities, gender, race, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation, but also how far we still need to go to reach the American ideal that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights,” said Smith. 

To kick off the month, a presentation was held by professor Dr. Joe William Trotter from Carnegie Mellon University on April 2. He presented a talk on “Establishing a New Foundation for Change: Social Struggles and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” 

Joe William Trotter, Jr. is Giant Eagle Professor of History and Social Justice and past history department chair at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He also directs Carnegie Mellon’s Center for African American Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE).

He has a vast amount of his works that have been published including his most recent work published as an essay, titled, “Research A. Philip Randolph: Shifting Historiographic Perspectives,” among several other pieces.

If you missed out on Trotter and still want  to show your support for Civil Rights Month, there are a whole list of events throughout the month April to attend.

April 4, 7:30 p.m.

R. Benjamin Wiley Arts and Sciences Center, Room 107. A showing of a movie called “Every Mother’s Son” which tells the stories of three mothers who decided to stand up and confront when their sons became victims of police brutality.

April 8, 4:30 p.m.

R Benjamin Wiley Arts and Sciences Center, Room 117. Dr. Stephen Sullivan, professor of philosophy, presents a talk on “White Privilege.” He will showcase the article, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack,” by Peggy McIntosh.

April 9, 6:30 p.m.

Butterfield Hall, Room 134. Presentation by Mr. Koert Wehberg, Esquire, regarding “Disabilities and Employment,” and the Binder Consultants Group will also present on competitive employment and persons with disabilities. This year marks the 25-year anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law in 1990.

April 23, 5 p.m.

R. Benjamin Wiley Arts and Sciences Center. A showing of the movie “Selma,” which is a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. It was known as Bloody Sunday. President Obama, and other civil rights activists, past and present, reenacted the march across the bridge on the anniversary.

“The University Diversity Committee is to be commended for their work in bringing such a wonderful array of civil rights programming to our campus. Although I personally look forward to serving on the panel that follows the movie, “Every Mother’s Son,” I remain equally excited about this array of programs that will intentionally engage the campus in dialogue of race and disability,” said Dr. Kahan Sablo, vice president for student affairs. “The film “Every Mother’s Son” addresses police brutality, while the presentation on “White Privilege” acknowledges the  access and opportunities experienced by certain groups based on race, gender, and ethnicity, and the presentation on “Competitive Employee for Persons with Disabilities” focuses on the challenges that persons with disabilities encounter in seeking employee in the larger society,” said Smith. 

The events are co-sponsored with the social work department, Frederick Douglass Institute, the president’s University Diversity Council and The Office of Student Affairs.

Karlee Dies  is a staff  writer for the Spectator. She can be reached by