A presentation by a Tennessee civil rights pioneer, visits to local African-American churches and opportunities to learn from local minority professionals are among the ways that Black History Month is being commemorated during February on the Tusculum College campus.
About 20 different events and activities, both on and off campus, have been scheduled through the efforts of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, a division of Tusculum’s Office of Student Affairs.
Dr. Rita Geier, a pioneer in Tennessee civil rights, will be speaking on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Building. The public is invited to the program, in which Dr. Geier will discuss her experiences as a civil rights pioneer in the South as well as her current position as the associate to the UT Knoxville Chancellor to lead intercultural efforts and implement goals of the university’s diversity plan and “Ready for the World” initiative.
Dr. Geier was a 23-year-old faculty member at Tennessee State University in 1968 when she filed a lawsuit after the University of Tennessee announced plans to expand in Nashville. She feared that UT-Nashville would become a four-year, predominantly white school with top-notch facilities while historically black TSU would be neglected. That lawsuit resulted in the 2001 Geier Consent Decree, which provided $77 million in state funds over six years to diversify student populations and faculty of all state higher education institutions.
Black Sunshine Poets will be returning to campus to perform at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, in the Pioneer Perk inside the Niswonger Commons. The group uses their lyrical skills, creativity, and talent to perform original pieces that are both thought provoking and entertaining as they display the originality of African-American literature.
During Sundays in February, Tusculum students are also invited to take a closer “Look at the Black Church.”
On Feb. 10, students were invited to join the members of Jones AME Zion Church in Greeneville to celebrate the rich history and heritage of the African-American Methodist Episcopalian Church.
On Feb. 17, students have the chance to explore another facet of religion in the African-American community with a visit to a Baptist church, Friendship Baptist Church in Greeneville.
On Feb. 20, students are invited to join Tate Chapel United Methodist Church for the rededication of the historic church, which has been serving the African-American community in Greenville for over 180 years.
Two events during the month give Tusculum students a unique opportunity to meet and learn from minority professionals in the region.
“Dessert and Discussion: Women’s Panel” was held on Feb. 5, in which students interacted and networked with professionals from the region, including Dr. Pauletta Johnson, a professor of education at Tusculum; Rhea Scruggs, a business owner and an University of Tennessee graduate student; and Chutney Walton, a doctoral candidate at UT and graduate assistant with the Black Cultural Center.
On Tuesday, Feb. 26, it will be the men’s turn. “Dessert and Discussion: Men’s Panel,” will allow students to learn about the professional world from the perspective of those who are living it.
Tusculum students and the community are also encouraged to visit the special Black History exhibit in the Living Room of the Niswonger Commons. The “mini-museum” features information about African-Americans who have made significant contributions in the history of the nation as well as its cultural, sport, and political life.
The Multicultural Affairs Office also has offered students the opportunity to travel to Atlanta for an African-American History Tour including a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church, the starting pulpit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; to participate in the third annual Black Issues Conference at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville; and to attend “Black Violins,” a concert at UT by two classically trained violinists creating a link between hip hop and classical music.
On campus, there will be a showing of an independent film about the African-American experience at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, and the screening of “Nothing But a Man,” which documents the struggles of an African-American couple in the 1960s, will be Wednesday, Feb. 27. Both films will be shown at 7 p.m. in the Behan Arena Theater in the Annie Hogan Byrd building.
“Pizza and Politics” will feature a discussion of the state of Black America and politics, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21, in the boardroom of the Library on campus. Students will have the opportunity to test their knowledge of African-American history facts at the Black History Bowl, sponsored by Black United Students, at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, in the Pioneer Perk. The month will end with a celebration at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 29, in the Niswonger Living Room of the Commons.