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MLK celebration fights racism, promotes diversity

Sade Palmer
Staff Writer

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Racial issues still prevail today, but inspiring figures like Martin Luther King Jr. still take a stand (Photo courtesy of blogs.millersville.edu).

It’s the beginning of Black History Month and Millersville is off to a great start with honoring important African Americans this month. It was an appreciative audience Thursday night as they listened to Dr. Ernest Green and Dr. Terrence Roberts speak about their experiences at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

With this year making it the 60th anniversary of The Little Rock Nine, it was a very meaningful evening. The Little Rock Nine is a well-known story about nine high school children who endured shares of racial discrimination at Central High School in 1957, which was a result of the Brown vs. the Board of Topeka, Kansas, Supreme Court decision.

This also became a leading story in the Civil Rights Movement. Being tortured every day you go to school can take a toll on the students, especially with other students doing anything possible to make the nine quit school.

At the time while this was happening, things got so extreme that President Eisenhower at one point had to send in federal troops to serve as protection for the nine students. When asked about how tough it was dealing with those traumas on a daily basis Dr. Green says: “We went to war everyday but it was a war worth fighting for.”

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Dr. Terrence Roberts discusses the racial discrimination African American students had to endure at Central High School and how these racial issues are still pervasive (Photo courtesy of Jason E. Iyobhebhe).

Although the white students believed that they could run them out, those nine students were strong and did not give up. With a sense of humor, Dr. Green talked about them being early users of book bags because of the fear of keeping their belongings in the lockers would end up with them being vandalized. The audience laughed with him as they understood his humor.

When Dr. Roberts was asked the same question about how it was dealing with those traumas daily, he answered that he had to “develop a high level of self-awareness,” which makes a lot of sense because that could take a toll on someone and if they’re not strong it could break them. These men, along with the seven other students who went through this are prime examples of the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

To hear their stories was very inspiring, because they went on to achieve greatness. Both men got their Ph.D.’s in different fields along and received many awards for their accomplishments.

Dr. Green, who later served with the NAACP and was president for the Michigan chapter, for a couple of years also spoke about the issues we face today in our country. He mentioned how the issues African Americans face today are similar to the ones they faced in his generation.

Meaning that, this country has come a long way from the past, but there are countless issues that today’s generation has to deal with that are highly similar to the ones of the past. He was quoted saying, “Emmett Till was my Trayvon Martin.” Both cases made an impact on this country.

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Brenden V. Mixson, Vice President of the Black Student Union, moderated the event (Photo courtesy of Jason E. Iyobhebhe).

With Dr. Green comparing the two, it shows that African Americans have been targeted for some time in this country and that not much has changed. Both men spoke about today’s world and about Obama being the first African American President. Dr. Roberts said that when he thought about it, he did not think about himself, but he thought about his grandkids because the first president they saw was Obama and that can have an impact on their lives in the future.

This event was a great way to start off Black History Month for the Black Student Union (BSU) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as those were the organizations that presented the event for the audience. There was time to ask a few questions to the President of BSU, John Johnson Jr. When asked about BSU’s mission, Johnson replied with honor, “we want to bring back professionalism to the board, to have students united on campus and strive for diversity.” With February being Black History Month, students and the public can look forward to many events related to it.

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