Stockton News

Fannie Lou Hamer event promotes importance of rights and education

Written for The Argo By Moujnir Lewis 

On October 6, Stockton University’s faculty and students came together virtually to celebrate and honor prolific civil rights and voting activist Fannie Lou Hamer. 

The 17th Annual Symposium celebrating Hamer’s legacy entitled “It’s Not a Moment; It’s a Movement,” dealt deftly with relevant topics in today’s world, including white supremacy, education, and the importance of voting. 

Hamer most notably fought for African Americans’ right to vote after registering at the age of 44, subsequently being beaten and jailed for her activism. She also lost her job, was the mark of murder attempts, and fell under criticism for defying segregation laws in order to encourage people to exercise their rights. 

None of this deterred Hamer, and she succeeded in bringing the issue of black voting rights and democracy to light during the 1964 Democratic Convention. In 2020, the issue of voting rights and voter suppression is still prevalent. Many are questioning their place in politics, and in this movement as a whole.

“Everybody has a divine purpose. It isn’t for anyone else to dictate to you how you move. What you have to do, [number] one, is you have to study…. You have to understand the root of oppression so that as you engage movement, you’re engaging movement from the perspective of uprooting the root,” said Dr. Zoe Spencer, the keynote speaker. “When we talk about white supremacy, unless we understand the root of white supremacy, we are not going to be able to undo white supremacy.” 

Dr. Donnetrice Allison, the coordinator of the Africana Studies Program at Stockton and the symposium, agrees that knowledge of history and Africana Studies is pivotal to creating change. 

“We can never change systemic racism in this country if people are not educated about the history of Black people in this country and how they were systematically held back from the American dream, even though the country was built up on their labor,” Allison said. 

Acknowledging the issues at hand appears to be another vital step to enacting real change. 

Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman exemplified this during the symposium, stating, “We [Stockton University] denounce white supremacy, and we stand together in unity, vigorously promoting diversity and inclusion, because, as Mahatma Gandhi proclaimed, ‘Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.’ And, together, we – all of us – will not fail.”

“I think it is incredibly important for a leader, particularly a leader of a predominantly white university, to publicly denounce white supremacy because what that does is give an important message to students, faculty, and staff of color that you are seen and you are heard, and hopefully that will translate into ‘you are safe here,” Allison said.

Stockton University continues to encourage students to become active citizens, denounce hate, and exercise their constitutional rights. 

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