Month’s events to focus on past, present

By Brenden Walz

Life in the past and the present will be the focus of events during the second week of Black Heritage Month.

The first event this week will be a solo performance by Mississippi artist Billy Jean Young from her play “Fannie Lou Hamer: This Little Light.”

Young’s performance will be held Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium as part of the Tribute to Black People celebration.

The play describes the life of Hamer, an African-American, who joined the civil rights movement at the age of 45.

Van Amos, program coordinator for the Center for Black Studies, said Hamer was involved in the civil rights movement when she registered to vote with the help of a civil rights worker associated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNIC).

Up until that point, she had worked on a plantation all her life.

Amos said Hamer then left the plantation with her husband after the plantation’s owner told her she had to withdraw her voter’s registration if she wanted to stay and live on the plantation.

“She was a very courageous woman to walk off the plantation at 45 years of age,” Amos said.

Six months later, Hamer began working for SNIC, Amos said.

“It’s the story of a ‘foot soldier’ who called for the unity of the races,” he said.

Billie Jean Young, an assistant professor at Jackson State University, will portray Hamer. She began working in community theater in 1969 and received her artistic training at Judson College for Women and a Juris Doctorate from Stanford University.

Young recently appeared in the film “Mississippi Burning,” which dealt with the FBI investigation of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in the summer of 1964.

Along with the show, the Soul Bowl Banquet will be held on Thursday at 5 p.m. in the Wesley Foundation building. The dinner is free and open to the public, although the public is encouraged to bring a dish to share.

“We hope the entire community will come out and break bread with us,” Amos said.

Also, a panel discussion titled “Being Black in DeKalb” will be held on Sunday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Holmes Student Center’s Illinois Room

David Schmidt, campus minister of United Campus Ministry and Wesley Foundation, said the idea for the panel discussion grew out of the DeKalb Interfaith Network’s decision to look at local issues, in addition to international issues.

He said the subject also was chosen because DeKalb Interfaith had sponsored a program last semester dealing with Columbus’s encounter with the new world.

“We realized many of us who are Euro-Americans don’t really understand what the experiences of African-Americans living in DeKalb are,” Schmidt said.

He said most impressions white people get of African-Americans come from what they watch on television or read in the newspaper, usually images of someone who is a sports hero or in trouble.

“For example, if a black faculty member is walking down the streets of DeKalb at night, a police car passing by is more likely to slow down and check him out than if it were a white faculty member,” Schmidt said.

“We don’t realize it happens, but it does.”

Schmidt added that he felt it was wrong for the white community to ask the African-American community to solve the problem of racism.

“But for us in the white society to know what to do, we must receive information from the black community so that we can know what to do to implement changes in a society that is dominated by European-American culture,” Schmidt said.