Theme “Reconciliation with our present through exploration of our past,” the month-long series draws on the work of the Elon History and Remembrance Committee.
The annual race, reflection and discussion series focused on black achievements and anti-black racism in Elon’s history continues as the community prepares to celebrate June 16th. The Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education offers this opportunity for personal and professional growth in partnership with the Division of Inclusive Excellence, Education and Development, the Committee on Elon History and Memory, and the Office of Leadership and Professional Development.
This year’s theme, “Reconciliation with our present through exploration of our past,” builds on previous years when the series focused on social justice and combating systemic racism. The inaugural series came in 2015 after a white man shot dead nine black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
This year’s theme also aligns with the principles of June 16, a holiday that commemorates the moment when enslaved African Americans were finally freed 157 years ago. On June 19, 1865, federal officials arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of slavery. This year marks the first anniversary of June 16 as a federal holiday, considered both a time for celebration and reflection.
On June 16, “together we pause to reflect on the pervasive impact of racism and to strengthen our commitment to justice for black Americans so we can all be free,” said Randy Williams, vice president and assistant provost for inclusive excellence.
In the first two weekly sessions, members of the Elon History and Remembrance Committee led discussions on anti-Black racism and a campus tour exploring the physical environment from a diversity, equity and inclusion framework.
“This year’s themes allow us to discuss an integrative interpretation of Elon’s story with validations of historical truths that include voices and lived experiences of people with marginalized identities,” said Sylvia Muñoz, Associate Dean of Studies and Director of CREDE.
The June 8 session featured the “Teaching about Anti-Black Racism from Elon’s History” website co-authored by Charles Irons, William J. Story Sr. Professor and Professor of History, and Damion Blake, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies was created Faculty Fellow in Race, Ethnicity and Diversity.
“As long as we continue to live in a society shaped by racial injustice, we need to have conversations about race and black Americans in particular,” Irons said. “I don’t see how we would ever hope to achieve a more just society without either diagnosing the causes of inequality or fighting white supremacy.”
The June 15 session included a campus tour moderated by Evan Gatti, Associate Professor of Art History, Chrystal Carpenter, Coordinator of University Archives and Special Collections and Associate Librarian, and Irons. The tour took participants around the campus and discussed ideas on naming, structures, furniture and plaques and statues.
All three moderators are members of the Committee on Elon History and Memory. Gatti currently serves as chairman and Irons served as chairman from 2018 to 2020.
The remaining two sessions in the series will be held on June 22 at 11:30 am (“Reflecting on Our Past to Dialogue on Contemporary Racial Injustices”) and June 29 (“Racial Reconciliation and Healing: A Dialogue on Action and Next Steps”) .”) The series is part of the ongoing work to make Elon a university for all, and is the culmination of several efforts to connect the past with the present to go into the future.
“At Elon, the Inclusive Excellence framework calls for a community striving to dismantle oppression,” said Carla Fullwood, director of the Office of Inclusive Excellence, Education and Development. “I think the Race, Reflection and Discussion Series creates a space to continue the dialogue and raise awareness about racial differences and different forms of racism to fight against type oppression.”
The series explores the Committee on Elon History and Memory’s Fall 2020 report, which provides recommendations for teaching and learning about anti-Black racism in Elon’s history. The 13 recommendations included in the report, which align with the University’s ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, include establishing a standing version of the Elon History and Remembrance Committee; Implementation of a new process for renaming rooms on campus; Developing new commemorative practices around a more inclusive version of Elon’s story, such as B. Oral history projects and tours on the black experience at Elon; and creating multiple avenues for students to confront race in their coursework. The report also calls for support for the Black Lumen Project, a university initiative that grew out of Elon’s involvement in Universities Study Slavery. (Read more about the past work of the Black Lumen project and the future here.)