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Local pastor Leon Forte asks the group about the issues affecting their every day lives on campus.

Local pastor Leon Forte asks the group about the issues affecting their every day lives on campus.

Photographer: Olivia Wallace/Ohio University

Shambrion Treadwell, a senior studying theater, notes that the University lacks black productions on campus, and recollects her experiences as a student activist this past semester. To the right is campus activist Ryant Taylor, a senior majoring in creative writing.

Shambrion Treadwell, a senior studying theater, notes the University lacks black productions on campus, and recollects her experiences as a student activist this past semester. To the right is campus activist Ryant Taylor, a senior creative writing major.

Photographer: Olivia Wallace/Ohio University

Ohio University Professor Emerita of African American Studies Francine Childs stirs emotion in the crowd as she speaks at a panel discussion on racism in The Front Room on Friday, Jan. 23.

Ohio University Professor Emerita of African American Studies Francine Childs stirs emotion in the crowd as she speaks at a panel discussion on racism in The Front Room on Friday, Jan. 23.

Photographer: Olivia Wallace/Ohio University

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Professor Emerita returns to OHIO to share experiences of non-violence protests


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s six principals of non-violence have resonated with Ohio University Professor Emerita of African American Studies Francine Childs for decades, including when she participated in marches across the country to protest inequality and injustice in America.

Childs passed along her knowledge and experiences to students while she taught at the University, and returned to OHIO on Friday, Jan. 23, for an opportunity to teach additional students, faculty, and staff about her participation in non-violent protests during the Civil Rights era, as part of a series of events held on campus in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.  

The Teach-In on Racism was held at The Front Room in Baker University Center, and featured OHIO Associate Professor of Law in African American Studies Patricia Gunn, United Campus Ministry Executive Director Melissa Wales, and a panel of four students known for their activism on campus.

"King’s goals for uplifting his fellow human beings were lodged fully in love,” Gunn said, prior to introducing Childs to the audience. “Likewise, all of his strategies for achieving such goals were designed, implemented and executed through the agency of love. While there’s still much work to do, people of good will have laid a fine, firm foundation for you students, and soon they will be passing onto you that torch, which forever lights the way for humankind.”

Childs emphasized her participation in multiple marches in cities across the nation, which followed King’s principles of non-violence and sought justice and reconciliation rather than victory, she said.

Prior to marching, she signed a consent form that emphasized the importance of following non-violent principles along the way, no matter the circumstances, she said.

“We’ve got to be willing to walk miles,” Childs told the students. “We’ve got to be willing to have ketchup and Kool-Aid and rotten eggs and rotten tomatoes and everything cracked on our heads. Whatever it takes, we’ve got to move on up a little higher and keep on walking, keep on marching, and we can’t let anything or anybody turn us around.”

Women in the march had to walk in high-heeled shoes and dress like they were headed to church, she said, since they weren’t allowed to leave campus otherwise. “Anytime we left that campus, we never knew whether we were going to come back again or not,” she said.

She encouraged students at The Front Room to grasp the principles of non-violence and become activists rather than dreamers. “It’s not enough to dream, you must be an activist,” she said, noting there is work to do locally, close to home.

In Southeastern Ohio, where there’s hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, rampant infant mortality, poverty, racism, prejudice, apartheid, anti-Semitism, sexism, colonialism, homophobia, and discrimination about different abilities, stereotypes are still issues that plague the region today, she said.

“All of my life, I have believed that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” she said. “There were issues that were very much alive during the time of Dr. King and they are very much alive today, but we can’t let anybody turn us around. We’ve got to keep on marching and keep on walking and we’ve got to come together, because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Several students at the event have been participating in non-violent protests across campus, and have created a new organization called New Blac, which was discussed at the event.

The organization was created to address the issues that black students face on campus, and the idea is to help the black community by reaching out and working with them to create a better college experience.

“We’re trying to make OHIO an interactive campus instead of a reaction campus,” said Ryant Taylor, one of four student panelists at the event. “I want to see all students on campus sit down and express their feelings. I want the faculty, and President Roderick J. McDavis, to take more of a stand.”

“What issues are the African American students here on campus facing that will make groups want to get involved to be a better resource to them?” asked local pastor Leon Forte, a member of the crowd.

“I noticed theater doesn’t make black productions on campus,” student panelist Shambrion Treadwell responded. “When Obama won the election I wrote on my dry erase board outside my dorm that he won, and someone wrote, ‘No one cares about that.'"

“There’s just a lack of consideration on campus and people have no empathy,” said student panelist John Brown.

The panel agreed there is a large amount of segregation on campus.

“This has got to end,” Childs said. “These students should not be going through this in 2015. I’m so sorry that you guys have to go through this in 2015. It breaks my heart. You can make a difference, but you have to be steadfast and unmovable.”