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Spring 2003 | Volume 26, Number 2 | Campus
Dialogue, Films and Celebration Mark African-American History Month at SPU

, Joe Snell was raised in the South and moved to Seattle two years ago. Upon arrival, he remembers being curious about why so many African-Americans, especially in the 1940s, had moved West, where they had marginal historical roots or cultural identity. He learned that available jobs were only one piece of the picture. Many went West to escape the harsh Jim Crow segregation laws that in very real ways were like a second enslavement.

Snell’s ongoing curiosity about the history of African-Americans now informs his work as Seattle Pacific University’s assistant director of student programs for intercultural affairs. During African-American History Month in February, he invited to campus historian and Pulitzer Prize nominee Quintard Taylor Jr. from the University of Washington. Taylor’s topic was “In Search of the Racial Frontier: The African-American Quest for Freedom in the West.”

SPU students, faculty and staff found other educational experiences during the month as well. Up to 50 students gathered for a four-part, comprehensive look at race relations in America between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. They watched and discussed a PBS video presentation titled “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow” documenting the brutally oppressive era. “The series fleshed out students’ understanding of the African-American experience resisting oppression through education, political action, business development and other means,” says Snell.

The movie “Mississippi Burning,” a searing tale of the murder of civil rights workers in the 1960s, was also screened on campus. A panel of faculty and staff followed the film with a discussion of the racial divide in America.

The month concluded with a celebration of African food and culture sponsored by the MOSAIC intercultural club under the direction of student organizer Kwabena Badu-Antwi. A drum and dance ensemble from Ghana performed traditional West African music, and guests dined on authentic African cuisine. Only six weeks after African-American History Month, SPU welcomed Brenda Salter McNeil, president and founder of Overflow Ministries, as the 2003 Staley Lecturer. McNeil spoke in April on issues of racial and ethnic reconciliation.

The hope, says Snell, was that out of the spring’s events would come two things: a sense of cross-cultural community and a greater appreciation for different cultures and ethnic histories.

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