The Druker Office of Community Engagement at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College (USM LAC) recently hosted a daylong workshop about civil rights for students from the college and Edward Little High School (ELHS). Called “Bringing it Home: Civil Rights Struggles from Birmingham to Maine,” the workshop examined similarities and differences between civil rights struggles in Lewiston-Auburn, the United States, and globally 50 years ago and today.
Funded by a USM Diversity Mini Grant, the workshop brought together approximately 50 students from ELHS and 25 students from USM, along with staff from both schools, to build community among students while exploring the ethics and history of civil rights movements.
The event reflected hours of planning and preparation by ELHS student leaders Dante Baskett, Cole Butler, Clayton Carver, Sydnee Harris, Salma Mohammed, and Ayuub Sharlot and USM student leaders Tonya Bailey-Curry and Thomas Farrington. Their planning was facilitated by Nicole Manganelli of the Unity Project, ELHS Vice Principal Leslie Morrill, and USM-LAC Associate Professor Michelle Vazquez Jacobus.
The event included study of civil rights history, interactive activities, small and large group discussions, a multicultural panel and an action planning session, all of which included high school and college students, USM and ELHS faculty, and several community members.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” served as a touchstone for advanced study and to launch discussions about the perpetuity and commonality of civil rights struggles. Reading and discussion of the letter were followed by a multicultural panel consisting of former director of the Franco-American Heritage Center Rita Dube; USM student Tonya Bailey-Curry; USM LAC graduate and community leader Sadik Lag, and ELHS student Sydnee Harris.
The panelists spoke candidly about issues their communities have faced and provided ideas to strengthen relations within these communities. The workshop culminated with an action-oriented planning session, in which participants collaboratively developed action steps to address racism and create safer, more inclusive communities.
LAC’s Druker Office of Community Engagement is collaboratively led by students and faculty to coordinating LAC’s multi-tiered community engagement work.