The Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual Freedom (CSKC) will host programs in honor of Black History Month this month, including the A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. Memorial Lecture on February 24 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the center.

The precursor to Negro History Month, Negro History Week, was founded by African-American educator and scholar Carter G. Woodson through the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in February 1926. The organization’s purpose was to establish a special time throughout the year. in which African Americans could collectively learn about and honor important historical events, movements, and people who have contributed to the advancement of African Americans throughout history. Some sources identify the shift toward making it a month-long event as early as the 1940s, while others suggest that the lunar expansion was adopted in the 1970s.

The Higginbotham lecture will feature civil rights activist David Funkhouser, who in 1961, at the age of 19, was recruited by the Congress of Racial Equality to become a freedom fighter in Jackson, Mississippi. Funkhouser was assaulted for protesting racial segregation on interstate buses in the South. He will be joined by Village Councilwoman, longtime resident and educator Carmen Brown, who uses her background and elected office to advocate for the needs of the working class, and Greene County Democratic Capt. Villager Shonda Snead.

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This year’s session, named after African-American civil rights activist, historian, presidential adviser to President Lyndon B. Johnson and federal court judge A. Leon Higginbotham, is an intersectional conversation. According to CSKC Executive Director and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Shadia Alvarez, the conversation will explore change.

“We want to talk not only about electoral rights, but also about their importance think of yourself as a change agent. And what does it look like? How do you think of yourself as someone who can actually create change — either through your voice or through your actions,” she told the News in a recent interview.

The center will also host an Afro-Family History Month program at Chillicothe State Prison on February 16 in collaboration with the World House Choir.

“Dr. McGruder [Antioch College history professor] and I will be teaching a seminar on the lives of Martin Luther King and Coretta. It’s important to us because we believe that we don’t exist outside of ourselves and we have to do some work to overcome harm and injustice,” Alvarez said.

She also said the center will hold a private meeting with 15 local anti-racist groups, “or groups that identify themselves as anti-racist or fighting for diversity, justice and inclusion. [DEI] work at Yellow Springs” on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Bryan Community Center. According to Alvarez, the group’s meeting is not a public event due to capacity issues, and CSKC is starting with a smaller group of organizations before expanding the dialogue.

“Given the amount of feedback we’ve received about the expansion, it’s definitely not the last time we do this. But we started small, thinking we wanted to have a real intimate conversation with some of those who were moving, and it just blossomed,” Alvarez said.

The evolution of the CSKC center

The Coretta Scott King Center, named after one of the greatest African-Americans to contribute to the movement for social justice and human rights, may bear a resemblance to a Russian nesting doll, a wooden doll that can hold several smaller dolls. inner chambers and symbolizes fertility. The largest doll, representing the mother, shelters the smaller dolls, while the smallest doll represents the seed or inheritance. While King’s legacy is often recognized and honored around the world, the center itself is the center of a variety of local and increasingly regional social justice-oriented programs that align with King’s vision.

“For me, the opportunity to bring Coretta’s vision to life, basing the center’s work on the connection between learning and reflection, action and being, is critical to the further development of humanity,” Alvarez wrote in a subsequent email to News.

According to Alvarez, Antioch College graduate Coretta Scott King, Class of ’51, In 2005, it “transferred the name” to the college to create a center. In 2007, former director Dana Patterson helped shape its current mission.

“Dana Patterson developed an agreement that the center would be used as a learning center on race, class, gender, diversity, and social justice for the campus and surrounding community,” she wrote. “The Center’s mission was born with the intent to facilitate learning, dialogue, and action to advance social justice.”

Before assuming leadership of the Center in January 2022, Alvarez, who was born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., and graduated from Antioch in 1996 with a degree in education, was senior vice president for capital and strategic development and former a member of the Antioch Board of Trustees. She is also the mother of two students at Mills Lawn Elementary School.

Alvarez said student and faculty involvement and what she calls Antioch’s three-legged stool — cooperative, classroom and community — make up the center’s components.

“My role is evolving with the students. But an important part of that is making sure that the center offers opportunities for students to think about issues that are important to them, and to create their own events and activities, and ways to bring each other together to talk about topics that maybe don’t come up in dorm or maybe they are showing up and they want someone to help make that happen,” she said.

Alvarez also plans to build partnerships and create more community networks for engagement, especially in nearby cities. She hopes the effort will attract more local students to the college.

“I would like our programs to be much more connected to some of the grassroots organizations that are held in Springfield and Dayton. I’m working on that right now, getting to know people who are doing social justice, who are working around prison justice, who are doing work around economic justice. Being able to build these networks is important to me. I think the other part is how we engage the channels of excellence so that they attract more black and brown people to Antioch,” Alvarez said.

According to Alvarez, the center offers students a space to implement ideas and concepts they may have.

“We’re suggesting this link between thinking about an idea or having an idea and having support mechanisms to help you get that idea off the ground,” she said. “Because of the center and where it is physically, it allows for an entrance, a connective tissue, I would say, between the village, the students and the Antioch College community.”

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