Lifelong civil rights activist to visit GSU

Erin McGuiness

Civil rights activist, Joanne Bland, is visiting GSU Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Nessmith-Lane auditorium to present a lecture entitled “My Piece in the Puzzle of Social Change.” The presentation is primarily focused on her lifelong activism in education and advocacy for the civil rights movement.

As a nine-year-old girl, Bland was already advocating for civil rights by marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the “Bloody Sunday” conflict on March 7, 1965. By the time she was 11 years old, she had been arrested 13 times.

Her struggle with “Jim Crow Laws” serves as Bland’s foundation and inspiration for her lifetime work with civil and human rights work

David Dudley, an African-American literature professor and close friend of Bland, invited the civil rights activist for the benefit of the students and not specifically discuss racial problems at GSU.

“I did not invite her because I thought [GSU has] a problem that has to be solved. I invited her because I think she has a super important story to tell. And that I think she can inform, and challenge, and inspire students,” Dudley said. “I am all for challenging students.”

Some students feel that it’s important for students to be exposed to civil rights, especially during Black History Month.

“I think it’ll be a great opportunity for students to learn more about civil rights especially considering that it’s Black History Month and to also know the importance of standing up for something you believe in,” Allison Martinez, junior multimedia and Spanish major, said.

Students, faculty and visitors will have the opportunity to hear some of the history from a person who has actually lived and participated in the civil rights movement as well as Bland’s personal battle with the movement. In addition, students will be given the chance to speak with Bland about her experiences in a Q&A following the lecture.

“She’s never made a lot of money doing this, but I think she’s made a big impact especially on the lives of young people and on college students,” Dudley said.“She’s very down to earth, plain spoken, she tells it like she sees it and she’s likely to say some controversial things.”

Netiah McClure, president of the Collegiate 100 Women, a mentoring organization devoted to providing opportunities to empower and improve the quality of life for women, believes Bland’s visit will raise awareness about the people who have played an active role in the civil rights movement.

“I think it’s very important for the moral of the minority population on this campus to hear from someone who has so passionately been fighting for their well being for so many years. I think it is necessary for people to see that someone so young sacrificed so much and realize that what we are trying to accomplish pales in comparison and we can’t compromise on the principles we believe in,” McClure said.

Bland has been an influential part of countless people’s lives especially in Dudley’s.

“It’s one of those people that you run into and you meet for a while and somehow that person makes this impact and you have such respect for that person. She’s not pretentious, she’s not college educated, she’s just Joanne doing her thing,” Dudley said.

An important aspect to know about Bland is that she has never focused on making a lot of money advocating for the civil rights movement but instead, Dudley says Bland’s focus is on making an impact especially on the lives of young people. McClure feels the talk will be a great opportunity for GSU students to become inspired.

“It is my hope that hearing Joanne speak they [students] will feel enlightened and inspired to take action. I hope that they understand what needs to be done differently in order to affect change on this campus,” McClure said.

The event is free and open to the public.

Photo courtesy of David Dudley.