Freedom Rider Edward Johnson introduced himself to a throng of nearly seventy parents, students, teachers and counselors at the second annual “Struggle for Equality” event and awards ceremony on Feb. 7. Leaning against a nearby desk, the speaker began his story, chuckling warmly and using animated gesticulations. He told the crowd of his childhood in Texas and his struggle for equality in Jackson, Mississippi. It was there that he was jailed in 1961 for what is known as “breach of the peace.”
The event, which took place from 6-8 p.m. in the Samo Library, featured a question and answer session with Edward Johnson and the artwork of all Freshman Seminar students.
As their common assessment for the semester, all freshmen were required to produce a poem, a piece of artwork or prose involving the struggle for equality and how they connected personally.
“My favorite part every year is having the parents come and see the work of their students because often work is done in class and parents only see bits and pieces. But now, they get to see the project in its entirety and on display,” Freshman Seminar teacher Shannon Halley-Cox said.
Circling around the library, the mantras “We are all of one color,” “Stop prejudice” and “Equality is for everyone” seemed to jump off the pages.
“I thought it was really interesting to see the artwork of my peers and to meet someone from the Civil Rights movement,” freshman Rene Ross said.
At the closure of the question and answer session, Johnson left the audience with this inspiring thought: “I tell young people that the journey never ends. Stay focused. Stay determined. Reset your goals and keep working toward them.”
To conclude the event, the students with the top two projects from each Freshmen Seminar class were each acknowledged with a certificate and encouraging applause from the audience.