Surprise SCLC protest draws media attention

The Black Student Alliance, Black Star, Change@Emory, the SRC, and faculty supporters staged a silent protest at the lavish launch party for And the Struggle Continues: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Fight for Social Change at the Woodruff Library. We objected to the positioning of President Wagner and Emory College as patrons of the African-American civil rights and global anti-poverty movements.

Protesters greet Wagner at the SCLC launch. Photo: Jason Francisco.

Protesters greet Wagner at the SCLC launch. Photo: Jason Francisco.

Our banners bore statements like “Civil Rights is not a photo-op,” “I am not an afterthought,” and “Happy retirement, President Wagner.” We also distributed our fact sheet on race and the cuts and a statement from Change@Emory, “A Call to Action.”

Reporters from the New York Times, NPR, Fox 5 Atlanta, and the Emory Wheel were present.

Attendees–guests and honored speakers alike–were overwhelmingly supportive of our message. We received comments like, “50 years later, we’re still protesting?” and (from a SCLC speaker) “This is the First Amendment right we fought for.” As quoted in the NYT, Brenda Davenport, who has worked as the national volunteer and youth organizer for the SCLC, said, “I love it. Where else would you want protesters to show up but at something that is about the value of protesting?”
Dorothy Cotton, the director of the SCLC’s Citizen Education Project during the 1960s, and current national CEO Charles Steele both emphasized the role of education and engagement in the fight against Jim Crow, voting rights infringements, and other injustices.

For many in the room, the disintegration of the DES, the ILA, and the Journalism program was a bitter subtext. The exhibit was co-curated by a doctoral candidate in the ILA, an irony we didn’t want anyone to miss.

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