Benedictine/Roosevelt University conference honors Black History Month

January 29, 2016

Lisle, Illinois ~ Benedictine University, in conjunction with Roosevelt University, will honor Black History Month with the conference, “Come, Let Us Build a New World Together: 50 Years after the Mississippi Summer Project,” featuring a series of discussions with civil rights leaders, films and music from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, February 25-27.

The event will focus on the role of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the fight for voting rights, lessons from the Mississippi Summer Project, Freedom Schools, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and the civil rights movement’s ramifications and connections with contemporary struggles in endangered communities.

The first day of the conference will be held on the Benedictine campus and is open to the public, but is designed primarily for teachers who teach the civil rights movement or want to learn new ways to present the topic in their classes. It is also geared toward social workers and health professionals who work within African-American communities.

John Hardy, one of the founders of the SNCC, retired Detroit Public Schools teacher and special consultant for civil rights with the Detroit Historical Society, will present his “Freedom Riders Slideshow,” sharing his personal experiences as a Freedom Rider who rode interstate buses to challenge segregation in the South, participated in lunch counter sit-ins, protest marches, boycotts and taught nonviolent principles for community organizing.

Award-winning photographer Herbert Randall will also discuss his work – more than 80 photos – documenting the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project through his “Faces of Freedom Summer” slideshow. His photographs have since appeared in exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Brooklyn Museum, and are permanently represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.

Other conference speakers include:

• Aviva Futorian, a Chicago attorney, SNCC Mississippi Summer Project volunteer and Freedom School teacher.

• Vince Gaddis, Ph.D., professor of History at Benedictine University.

• James Garrett, Ph.D., SNCC staff member, organizer of the first Black Student Union in the United States and creator of the first African-American Studies program.

• MeShelda Jackson, associate professor and chair of the School of Education at Benedictine University.

• Charles Payne, Ph.D., Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and an affiliate of the Urban Education Institute of the University of Chicago.

• Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, Ph.D., assistant professor of Religion at the University of Florida, project director for the SNCC in Mississippi and Freedom School teacher.

• Susan Smith Richardson, editor of The Chicago Reporter.

• Muriel Tillinghast, past president of the Washington, D.C.-based Nonviolent Action Group, project director and community organizer for the SNCC in Mississippi and Freedom School teacher.

• Elizabeth Todd-Breland, Ph.D., assistant professor of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

• Hollis Watkins, one of the founders of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, SNCC staff member and president of Southern Echo, an organization working to empower local communities in the South through effective community organizing.

A more in-depth discussion of Freedom Schools, which were established to encourage students from elementary to high school to become more socially aware and active members of their community,their relevance today and how to incorporate conference material in the classroom will be discussed in the afternoon. The cost of attendance is $20 (or $25 to attend all three days).

On Friday and Saturday, the conference will move to the campus of Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago where the public (especially high school and college-age students) are encouraged to attend.

Both days will feature interactive panels and discussion circles, films and musical performances by the SNCC Freedom Singers, the Mark Durham Trio and others. Excerpts from the Stanley Nelson Jr. film “Freedom Summer” will be shown and discussed.

The event will close with a discussion featuring Bree Newsome, a social justice activist and filmmaker, who was arrested after removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House. The cost of attendance is $10 per day (or $25 to attend all three days).

The conference is dedicated to the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader Julian Bond. Sponsors include Benedictine University, Roosevelt University, the Chicago SNCC History Project, the University of Chicago’s Upward Bound program, Saint Pius V Parish, Crossroads Fund, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, The Chicago Reporter, Public Allies and the Chicago Freedom School.

To RSVP or for more information, contact Fannie Rushing at (630) 829-6248 or, or Dovetta McKee at


 Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among “America’s Top Colleges” for the fifth consecutive year in 2015, and the University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area.

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