Civil Rights icon highlights student activism
Hollis Watkins was 19 when he became the first Mississippi student to join the Mississippi Voting Rights Project of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.
It was 1961. For years during the Civil Rights Movement, Watkins participated in lunch-counter sit-ins, school walk-outs and encouraged residents to register to vote. For his advocacy, he was arrested several times and spent a total of two months in jail.
Nearly 50 years later, Watkins continues to empower African-American residents in the South, and lobby for equal representation. Watkins is co-founder and president of Southern Echo, Inc., a grassroots organization dedicated to fostering positive social change in Mississippi.
Today, March 3, Watkins brings his decades of experience and activism to campus to highlight student activism with students. Tomorrow, March 4, he is the keynote speaker in the college's commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.
Watkins is leading a workshop on student activism in Jones Hall, highlighting his own experiences, the historical background on the connection between poverty and the Civil Rights Movement, and the possibilities to make lasting change.
Watkins' workshop is being held as preparation for the Livingston County CROP Walk on March 28. The walk, which is open to the public, raises funds to combat hunger locally and worldwide.
"I think it is a great opportunity for people our age to see what can be accomplished with a vision, a little determination and a lot of hard work," said Alexis Everson '10. "This can motivate people and in turn make them become activists in their local community through events such as the CROP Walk ... Having Hollis come talk will enable us as college students to see that people our age can be a difference and even the littlest effort can help change the world."
Everson says what she takes with her after graduation won't be information gleaned from a textbook, but people like Watkins, who came to Geneseo and provided an opportunity to discuss and learn from their perspective.
"I also think that it is important for these people to share their stories with us so we can carry on their legacy," she said. "They won't be around forever so while they are hear, they should share their stories and inspire us to seek change in the world."
IF YOU GO ...
- Hollis Watkins will speak about his experiences and student activism with students tonight, Wednesday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. in Jones Hall.
- Hollis Watkins delivers the Martin Luther King Jr. keynote lecture on Thursday, March 4, at 7 p.m., in the College Union Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.
- GSTV is hosting its 9th Annual 24-Hour Telethon this Friday, March 5, starting at 2 p.m. in the College Ballroom, featuring college and local performers. Money raised through donations will benefit the college’s El Sauce service-learning program in Nicaragua.
Money raised during the telethon will benefit students who participate in the program through The Geneseo Foundation.
Kim Perrella ’10, the station’s special events coordinator, says GSTV’s executive board chose the El Sauce program because “we generally felt that it was an interesting way to give back to both Geneseo students and a community that the college has forged a bond with. We also know that the program works on a very tight budget, and seeing as we don't generally raise all that much money, we wanted it to go somewhere that would use it well.”
- Today, Wednesday, March 3 through Saturday, March 6, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 7, at 2 p.m., in the Alice Austin Theatre, there will be a presentation called "Wings" by Arthur Kopit, directed by School of the Arts Professor Randy Barbara Kaplan. Admission is $7. It is presented by the School of the Arts.
- On Friday, March 5, at 8 p.m. in Wadsworth Auditorium, the Geneseo Wind Ensemble and the Thursday Night Jazz Ensemble open their spring season. The concert will feature the premiere of a work by Wind Ensemble conductor and Distinguished Service Professor James Walker, written especially for Jazz Ensemble director and Adjunct Lecturer Jonathan Kruger, in honor of Kruger's 20th year at Genesoe as director of the ensemble and instructor of trumpet. will perform. The event is free and is presented by the School of the Arts. All of the works in the concert are examples of how composers use repetitive devices in music.
- On Saturday, March 6, at 7 p.m., in Wadsworth Auditorium, there is a Pre-St. Patrick's Day Concert with the Geneseo String Band, directed by Lecturer Jim Kimball. Admission is $5, $3 for students and free for ages 12 and under. It is presented by the School of the Arts. Read the profile of Jim Walker in the Feb. 28 issue of the Democrat & Chronicle.
- On Sunday, March 7, at 3 p.m. in the Central Presbyterian Church at 31 Center Street, Geneseo, the Geneseo Chamber Singers and Spectrum will perform, directed by Professor Gerard Floriano. It is presented by the School of the Arts. There are no tickets required and the event is free and open to the public.
- On Monday, March 8, at 4 p.m. in Newton 201, Professor Ian Ward of the University of Maryland will speak about "Democracy in the Age of Secularism." The talk is sponsored by the Department of Political Science and International Relations.
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