Miami hosts annual civil rights convention; Metropolis unveils marker – Oxford Observer

Miami University hosted the 10th annual National Civil Rights Conference in Oxford from June 20-22, featuring several community-wide events on history, education and reconciliation.

The focus of the conference was the topic “Promotion, Advocacy, Education, and Collaboration: The Challenge of Change. ”It was supposed to be in Oxford last summer, but the pandemic put it off until this year.

Miami University Archivist Jacky Johnson said she was grateful for President Gregory Crawford and the university’s assistance in hosting the conference. She would also like to thank Anthony James, Interim Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, for his efforts in bringing the conference to Oxford.

“The whole Miami community really came and supported it,” said Johnson. “We were the locals, but we needed everyone we had, people on a national and local level.”

Oxford was chosen as the location for the conference because of the Freedom Summer of 1964 program, where volunteers at the Western College for Women (now Miami’s western campus) were trained to register black voters in the south. Three of these volunteers – James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner – disappeared and were killed that summer while traveling from Oxford to Mississippi.

A memorial service was held on the mountain on Sunday, June 20th. Zion United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi, to commemorate the three volunteers. Miami streamed the event live for attendees in the Taylor Auditorium of the Farmer School of Business.

The 57th commemoration was technically a pre-conference, with the first day of conference activity on Monday June 21 with the unveiling of one new marker uptown, in memory of two black men who were lynched by white mobs in Oxford at the end of the 19th century.

Oxford remembers the lynchings of the late 19th century

“I know there is a story, my family history, and the truth is most likely somewhere in between,” said Chris Corbin-Jerreals, the descendant of lynch victims Henry Corbin and Simeon Garnet.

Henry Corbin was a black man who was lynched in Oxford on January 14, 1892. Simeon Garnet was lynched on September 3, 1877 15 years earlier. Both men were killed by white mobs without trial. Corbin was Corbin-Jerreals’ first cousin who was removed twice, and Garnet is the uncle of her grandmother’s first husband.

The reconciliation marker, unveiled Monday in Oxford’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park, tells the stories of two men who were lynched in Oxford. Photo by Rosemary Pennington

The marker was picked up on Monday at 9 a.m. in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park unveiled at the conference. The project was co-moderated by Valerie Carmichael, Director of Graduate Admissions, and Anthony James. The two worked with the Equal Justice Initiative to create the marker that outlines the stories of the two blacks lynched.

“This has been an important project and partnership,” said Carmichael. “It was very emotional for the family and for others. But it was worth it for the family members to see that the community … started learning, started the educational process, started aligning our history with where we are today. “

Corbin-Jerreals of Alexandria, Kentucky was accompanied by other descendants at the unveiling ceremony. One of her cousins ​​had to go away, she said, because he was so excited.

“It was a very moving, wonderful, sad, thoughtful day. It moved me to tears, ”said Corbin-Jerreals. “I guess I just felt bad because I felt like I was there again when Henry was lynched. When they revealed this marker with the story of Sim and Henry, it just brought me back to that day. “

Mayor Mike Smith, who supported the Marker Project along with the rest of the city council, said he was impressed with how one of the speakers at the unveiling said this was “not a happy occasion, but a necessary one”.

“It’s a reminder of ‘Never Again,’ but with the events of the past 12-14 months, it also reminds you that we still have a long way to go,” said Smith. “We have to keep working, just keep getting better. And I think it’s important that all of our historical markings are in one place for people to see and it means something. ”

Now that Corbin-Jerreals has marked the history of her ancestors at Oxford, she hopes to mark their resting places as well. The two men were buried in unmarked graves, and Corbin-Jerreals makes it a new task to find the places and place something there to remember them. It is one small step among many to remember those who have been wronged.

“I hope people make us feel like we never want to see it again. We have to be better people, we have to get along and above all we need respect for one another, ”said Corbin-Jerreals. “I hope [the marker] makes people stop and think and become better people – step in when they see an injustice and do the right thing. ”

Speakers spread awareness and knowledge

After the marker was unveiled on Monday, conference attendees were driven to the Shriver Center for several workshops and academic presentations. Ella Cope, a Talawanda High School graduate and an Ohio State University student, led one of these presentations.

Cope made the creation of the Mural “Changemakers of Oxford” for her Girl Scout Gold Award two years ago. Until recently, the mural was still on the outside wall of the Rittgers & Rittgers law firm, but had to be moved when moving Start of construction on the property right next to the office. Cope took the opportunity to personally present the mural at the conference. It is planned to move the mural to the side of the Oxford City Building.

“I thought my presentation went really well,” said Cope. “It was really nice to be able to get in contact with an audience and to have received my work and research well.”

Cope used most of her presentation to discuss the finer details of her research process and the thoughts that went into every minute detail of the wall design. For example, designer Joe Prescher came up with the idea of ​​sketching the map of Mississippi on the mural in gray and the map of Ohio in blue to represent the civil war uniform colors of each state.

At the end of her presentation, Cope also addressed the role public art plays in social movements.

Ella Cope’s mural “Changemakers of Oxford” depicting the car in which three civil rights activists were murdered during the 1964 freedom summer. The mural is to be installed on an exterior wall of the Oxford Municipal Building. Photo by Patti Newberry

“The main message of my speech was that art makes topics and ideas accessible,” said Cope. “And that’s why it’s necessary. The public art that we have seen over the past year, particularly regarding the Black Lives Matter social movement, has been impactful in a way that reinforces the mural’s message regarding racist violence, police violence, and the lives of these victims Crime.”

In addition to introducing himself, Cope attended all of the other sessions and workshops that were part of the conference. A presentation on Tuesday that caught both Cope and Jacky Johnson was made by the Daughters Beyond Imprisonment (DBI) group from New Orleans, Louisiana.

DBI is focused on strengthening relationships between children and their incarcerated parents and providing resources for young women and girls. Four young women spoke at the conference presentation about building resilience and community support for children with incarcerated parents. Cope said the youngest presenter was 15 years old.

“I can’t say enough about how amazing these women are. I was overwhelmed, “said Cope. “I think it’s great that they work together with each other to create spaces where they can be supported and heard. That was probably my favorite panel from the conference. “

Johnson said she also couldn’t believe how young the presenters were and how personal the stories they shared were.

“They weren’t scholars, they were just kids,” said Johnson. “They shared what it was like to be a child with an incarcerated parent and talked about the prison pipeline for African American men. They told their own stories and told the conference participants about their lives. ”

The conference ended on Tuesday evening at the Shriver Center. Overall, according to Johnson, more than 100 people registered for the event and presented 15 people. Smith was pleased that the conference was well received by locals and visitors alike in town.

“In my opinion [progressive change] will continue with Oxford’s civil rights story. I think we’ll continue to be a player, which is good, ”said Smith. “And if you wanted to have the civil rights conference here every year, I would be fully for it.”

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