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Collin College commemorates Black History Month
Kelley Chambers/Staff Photo - Political science professor Brian White gave a presentation on the history of the fight for equality in America at Collin College's Central Park campus on Friday. The event was preceded by a symbolic march and is the first of many the college will hold in honor of Black History Month.
Collin College kicked off Black History Month last week with a symbolic march for the anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation and the civil rights march on Washington at its Central Park Campus in McKinney.
The event marked the beginning of the college's theme for February: "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality," which will include film reviews, panel discussions and poetry readings at each of its campuses. A calendar of events can be found at collin.edu.
The events coincide with the national theme set by the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, whose goal is to educate and embrace unity in diversity.
"This is not so much about African-American history as it is about American history. It encompasses all of us," said Cathy Donald-Whitney, co-chair of the college's planning committee. "I love promoting the concept of unity in diversity and confronting the issues. We can no longer pretend there are not cultural inequities in America. We have come a long way but we still have a ways to go."
Dr. Brian White, a political science professor at Collin College, gave a "History to Now" presentation to discuss America's history of freedom as it is rooted in pivotal events of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The symbolic march preceded the presentation, marking the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was on Jan. 1, and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech this August.
During his half-hour presentation, White discussed significant events, places and people together, from the Fugitive Slave Act, the Dred Scott Decision, the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era, to show the evolution of equality and how these events are made evident in today's society.
"Lincoln urged freed slaves to not fight back, and to only fight if it requires self-defense," White said. "While the Emancipation Proclamation doesn't free all slaves, it certainly helps us reach the idea of equality. This is further illuminated with the 13th Amendment, the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment."
White also highlighted key figures in the Women's and Civil Rights movements, and discussed political and social strides throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Today, freedom and equality in America must be sustained as it tackles hard-hitting issues like terrorism and the gun control and health care debates, something that can only be done by working together and remember to keep the America's history at the forefront of the everyone's minds, White said.
"We must pay attention that, as our world has changed, our world is becoming increasingly closer, so now we have to work on working globally," White said. "No one person can do this job alone. America is a melting pot, with many attitudes and from these ideas we can work together to bring the balance of equality for the 21st Century and beyond."
While White's overview touched on notable figures from Harriett Tubman to Barack Obama, the core of this month's kickoff to commemorate Black History Month focused primarily on what the symbolic march stood for.
Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation and King's speeches were monumental toward America's steps to freedom and equality, said Cary Israel, president of Collin College. Because of these historic moments, he said, it is imperative to continue celebrating the individuals who have made these strides possible because more work needs to be done.
"We continue to have to fight against this. The shackles of slavery ... have gone away, at least in this country, but not totally as it relates to the violence perpetrated against individuals who have a different color of skin or different religion or who are from a different nation," Israel said. "We've got to squelch it. We're an institution of higher education. We should be able to have civil discourse without have type of prejudice I've seen both by language and by lead."
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