NORTH ADAMS -- A tale of fatherhood from a black man's perspective. The voice of a feminist. A puppet show on poverty. The imagery of gay and interracial relationships.
These are the sights, sounds and discussion points of a new civil rights movement in America -- and they'll all converge on and around the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus throughout the current school year.
On Thursday, the college welcomed author, journalist, musician and filmmaker James McBride to campus with his four-piece band to share music and to generate new dialogue inspired by the abolitionist movement of the 1800s.
McBride's presentation kicked off a new MCLA event series called "Creating Equality." The public series will bring an academic year's worth of discussions, film, words, music and more, curated by the college to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the civil rights movement and its continuing impact on American society.
"Part of our role is to bring in facilitators from outside campus to bring conversations on these topics into contemporary times," said MCLA history professor Frances Jones-Sneed.
Sneed and colleague Ely Janis, assistant professor of history, are co-organizing the series by working across other academic and extracurricular departments on campus.
The free, public series is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities' "Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle" project. The project promotes public screenings of four documentary films: "The Abolitionists," "Slavery By Another Name," "The Loving Story," and "Freedom Riders."
Feminism pioneer Gloria Steinem and Andrew Young, former U.N. ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, who now is with GoodWorks International, are among the planned speakers.
There also will also be contemporary art exhibits and performances by Eliza O. Barrios of the Filipina American artists collective "Mail Order Brides;" a hip-hop and choreography collective, "Word Becomes Flesh;" "50 Years After the Fire;" a concert featuring the MCLA Allegrettos, composer/musician Craig Harris and the Nation of Imagination; "Dan Froot & Dan Hurlin's Who's Hungry?" theater of puppetry presentation; and an MCLA Theatre production of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches."
"It's a time to talk about contemporary issues in the context of what happened then, how far we've come and the problems we are dealing with as a society today," Janis said.
The manner in which activism exists today certainly has changed since the 1950s and ‘60s. Massive marches, campus protests and speeches largely have given way to online petitions, digital letters and social media campaigns.
Jones-Sneed said student activism still exists. "Now you see more activism going on in small groups and certainly through social media," she said.
"You have to remember though, whether you're younger or older, all these kinds of movements we've seen start off with small groups of smart, dedicated people," said Janis. "It's through that process of coming together and realizing they're not alone that issues are changed."
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