Retrospect encourages move forward

Jeff Wilson, assistant professor of education for the University of Memphis higher education leadership program, speaks at the Black History Month program. He focused on African-Americans in higher education throughout history and in the future. | Photo by Angela Abbamonte

By Margaret Brinson

February is a month of celebrations — celebrations of love, of presidents past — but it is also a time to remember.

On Feb. 12, the 3rd Annual Black History Month Program, presented by leadership training and intercultural awareness organization MOSAIC, was held in the Carl Grant Events Center.

The event focused on the history of higher education and, specifically, the struggle for educational equality for blacks in America.

“Real education is meant to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn to begin with life as they find it and make it better,’” said Dr. Jeff Wilson, research specialist and professor at the University of Memphis, quoting Carter G. Wilson.

As the keynote speaker, Wilson emphasized the importance of history as a means for better understanding and appreciating the system of modern-day higher education, and the role of minorities therein.

“I think that was represented well at this year’s program. We want to look at black history at Union and within higher education as a whole,” said Matthew Marshall, Union admissions counselor and former MOSAIC president. “There’s an adage that says, ‘You can’t get where you’re going until you understand where you’ve been.’ I believe that’s true.”

Jacqueline Taylor, assistant dean of students and MOSAIC staff advisor, said, “The program, as a whole, is to focus on racial reconciliation, especially in higher education. First and foremost we are a Christian center for higher education, and because of that we ought to be concentrated on reconciliation.”

Taylor has been heading up the event from its debut in 2007.

“Early on Union did make periodic attempts to do something special for Black History Month, but in 2007 we decided to make it an annual event, which was an important advance,” Taylor said.

The idea was first born of two Union students, Shawanda Richardson and Tanikwa Haywood. Taylor moved forward with event plans and asked Dr. Camille Searcy, assistant director of institution effectiveness and research, to make the key address.

Taylor said she told Searcy to be expecting around 40 people. To their surprise, they received that many RSVPs plus a hundred more.

“It was just such a contagious moment of ‘Let’s really do this big,’” Taylor said.

Searcy, a dedicated faculty member the past 17 years, has a history with the university that goes back much further.

Her husband, Lonnie Searcy, was a student at Union University from 1966–1970. He was the first black student to graduate from Union University.

Being the first black student at an all-white university in the 1960s was not an easy endeavor, Searcy explained.

“There was the good, the bad and the ugly. We like to linger on the good,” she said.

“We (as human beings) are always expecting things. But don’t expect reconciliation if you’re not ready to forgive. It’s a two-part thing. And he loves this place.”

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