(Article written collaboratively and submitted by Mrs. Lanphear’s Spring 2017 Students)
A new tradition began for Mrs. Lanphear’s sophomore and junior English classes. Students walked to the Chadron State College (CSC) campus to celebrate the life of a great leader in America’s history. To start the day, Jovan Mays, a very passionate speaker and poet concerned with inhumane treatment and equal rights of all, presented at the CSC Student Center on January 16, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. His presentation was titled, “I Have A Dream?”, in which he questioned the complacency of Americans. Complacency is defined as being satisfied with a situation that could be changed, or simply not taking action. However, he also discussed non-complacency, and how speaking out against racism can be taboo. Mays encouraged Americans, and specifically audience members, to take action. He continued, explaining an example of what he called the “bomb effect.” The bomb effect is how one reacts to a dramatic change or a dramatic situation. Equal rights, according to Mays, is everyone’s responsibility. Jovan Mays’ emotional spoken word poem about his two young nephews opened listener’s minds to how we should carefully word things and how we should interact with each other. Overall, students found the presentation thought provoking and informative.
At noon, Dr. French, a CSC communications professor, shared a 2010 documentary entitled Prom Night in Mississippi. This documentary was about the town of Charleston, Mississippi and how community members faced racism in the deep South. Racism was embedded in their culture, and remains so today according to Dr. French. Based on information provided in the documentary, it seemed parents were against interracial relationships. In an attempt to ease the racial tension, Academy Award winner and famous actor Morgan Freeman returned to his hometown (Charleston) to sponsor an integrated prom in an effort to bring the community together.
Although the thought of an integrated prom excited most students, the idea failed to impress older generations. Parents of white students arranged an in-home meeting where they decided to sponsor a white-only prom. Soon after the meetings between the parents and students, and Morgan Freeman and students, tensions erupted between classmates of different ethnicities. Dr. French paused the film and asked for audience feedback. One man talked about his shocking experiences in the deep South. Another articulate audience member recounted her experience with white parents pulling their students out of the newly integrated schools in the Delta. CHS students returned to their classroom to discuss and reflect on the presentation by Dr. French.
One of the final sessions of the day was a community event located in the Chicoine Center. Many students from Chadron Public Schools attended the event to listen to Jovan Mays, Dr. Hillary Potter, and the Chadron Cardinal (senior and junior) Singers. Aurora, Colorado resident and poet laureate, Jovan Mays presented a poem expressing his views on racial discrimination. His tone was serious and strong, imploring and asking audience members to ponder Martin Luther King’s dream and how King could remain optimistic during troubled times. During his poem, Jovan shared the line: “Forget dreams, I’d have nightmares,” an idea which stayed with many of his listeners. The following speaker, Dr. Hillary Potter, a college professor from the University of Colorado in Boulder, mentioned that Dr. King had been arrested thirty times over the course of his life. Dr. Potter asked us to never accept social injustices. She claimed, “We don’t have to be divided.” The song, “We Shall Overcome,” was performed as a transition between speakers. Overall, the high school students enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a community event to remember Martin Luther King.