Throughout February, the Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives welcomed community members to campus for a program of events honoring the African-American legacy.
Events included lunch and learns, forums and worship services that encouraged discussion of past and present, and dialogue of community activism, race, justice and politics.
Featured speakers included Birmingham Mayor and Cumberland School of Law alumnus Randall Woodfin, national award-winning journalist Jeff Johnson, Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, Pastor Johnathan Brooks, and Reverend Charles Howard.
Assistant Provost for Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives Denise Gregory noted that the beginning and end of the month were bookended with particularly poignant events.
“We were very grateful to be able to host Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin and national award-winning journalist Jeff Johnson on January 31 for a conversation on pressing issues facing Birmingham and the nation,” she says. “And then we were also blessed to end the month with the Cumberland School of Law’s Black Law Student Association’s 25th Annual Thurgood Marshall Symposium, featuring Alabama’s House Minority Leader, Representative Anthony Daniels.”
Gregory says the return of Charles Howard to campus as Samford’s Convocation speaker was also especially meaningful. In addition to speaking in Reid Chapel, the university minister for the University of Pennsylvania visited the renovated space in Ingalls Hall’s Office of Admission to see the history timeline that includes his mother, the late Audrey Lattimore Gaston Howard. Mrs. Howard was the first African-American student to enroll full-time at Samford in 1967 and receive her degree from Cumberland School of Law in 1970.
“It was heartwarming to see him place his hand on her picture,” Gregory said. “Dr. Howard always very graciously expresses his appreciation for the way Samford remembers his mother. We’re grateful that this timeline is in such a prominent place on campus. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to be sure to go by.”
While each event had a unique focus, many of the speakers offered perspective on the power of community activism.
“Realize that what you have right now is enough. There is change you can create right now with a level of intention. As you evolve, your capacity to effect change will evolve,” Johnson said. “Who do you want to serve? What is the area you want to make an impact? Trust that what you have right now is enough to start that.”
Charles Howard spoke about privilege and the importance of breaking through, sharing in pain and perspective.
“I think this is what Jesus does. I think this is an incarnational love. Even when it’s not your pain, looking another in the eye and taking the tears off their face and crying the tears for them, this is what Jesus did for us.”
He further encouraged the Samford community to take these sentiments beyond Black History Month and expand worlds.
“If you don’t have friends on the other side of whatever issue is close to your heart, you’re doing it wrong. If you don’t have friends that don’t look like you, you’re doing it wrong. This is what Jesus wants. He wants us to incarnationally love across borders. To love across difference. To take risks. When you take risks, beautiful things can happen.”
The Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives supports efforts that engage the Samford community in multicultural curricular and co-curricular development while promoting a variety of campus events that enhance cross-cultural initiatives that celebrate diversity and inclusion while promoting respect for others.