Samford's third annual Diversity Luncheon May 5 celebrated scholarship, courage and reconciliation.
Dr. Denise Gregory and Paige Pettaway, representing the Sigma Eta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, presented the Tiffany Conaway Scholarship to Samford student Walter Turner of Alabaster, Ala. The sorority raised $1,000 for the scholarship in memory of Conaway, who championed diversity at Samford but died in 1995, just before Delta Sigma Theta was officially chartered.
Luncheon attendees included members of the sorority, Conaway's parents, Samford President Andrew Westmoreland, Vice President for University Advancement W. Randall Pittman, members of the Faculty Senate Diversity Committee, members of Samford's Black Student Union, alumni and other supporters of a more culturally diverse university.
Carolyn McKinstry, survivor of the 1963 bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church, was the featured speaker at the event. McKinstry felt called to ministry at the time of life most others look toward retirement, enrolled at Samford's Beeson Divinity School and earned the Master of Divinity degree. She recently published, with co-author Denise George, a memoir titled, While the World Watches.
McKinstry prefaced her remarks with a reading of some of the segregationist laws of her Birmingham youth. She went on to describe the events of September 15, 1963--departing the church bathroom where three of her friends were about to die at the hands of racist bombers, answering the church phone only to hear the cryptic warning of "three minutes," and, finally, the blast that appalled the world and galvanized the American civil rights movement.
McKinstry did not dwell on such hatred and violence. Instead, she emphasized its lessons and warned of what she sees as a resurgence of hatred in American culture. She said she doesn't understand racism. "I do understand the effect of love," she said. "I do understand the effect of forgiveness. I do understand the effect of reconciliation."
Citing the book of Romans, she reminded the audience in Samford's Pete Hanna Center that "love does its neighbor no harm".