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Dream Act Series celebrates black history

Last year, when Jason Brooks began his position as director of Multicultural Affairs at Emporia State, the university requested that he find a way to focus on civil rights and social justice. And thus, the Dream Act Series was born.

The Dream Act Series has two sides to it. On one end, immigration reform and on the other, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for our nation.

This year, amidst the 50 year anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and commemorations on how far American society has come in the fight to end racism, ESU has been given a special opportunity to reflect on the past.

Brooks applied for a grant through the National Endowment for Humanities in New York, and ESU was one of 436 universities and other public entities within the United States to receive the $1,200 grant and the four documentary films that make up the Created Equal: American Civil Rights Struggle Film Series: The Freedom Riders, The Loving Story, The Abolitionist and Slavery By Another Name.

The money is being used to cover refreshments, public relations, venue cost and other expenses that go along with showing the films.

The first two documentaries, The Freedom Riders and The Loving Story, have already been shown at William Allen White Library and the Emporia Public Library, respectively.

After each showing, a discussion session was held. The Loving Story covered the issue of interracial marriage, which sparked important dialogue with community members in attendance who had lived through the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

“It happened in our history and it affects how we live now,” said Lynette Olson, reference service coordinator at the Emporia Public Library. “History books don’t give you that information on people.”

The third film of the series, The Abolitionists, will be shown in the Preston Family Room in Memorial Union on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m., and the last film, Slavery by Another Name, will be shown in William Allen White Library Learning Commons on Feb. 13 at 6 p.m.

Along with the Dream Act Series to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr., the William Allen White Library is putting together a display in honor of Black History Month this February located on the lower level. It includes a letter from Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed to the Kansas State Teacher’s College – now ESU – thanking the university for the students’ involvement with the SCOPE project, which focused on increasing black voter registration.

Through these means, ESU is working to keep history alive.

“The further we get away from the 60s and the 50s, we’re losing a little bit of the generation that actually lived through it,” Brooks said. “We want to continue to keep on bringing it up because we don’t want to repeat this history by no means.”

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