Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Storyteller Relives Civil Rights Movement

Members of the Whitman and Walla Walla community filled the Glover Alston Center on Monday, Feb. 25 to hear storyteller Kathya Alexander speak about the civil rights movement.

Kathya Alexander is a storyteller who gets her inspriation from growing up in the segregated South.
Kathya Alexander is a storyteller who gets her inspriation from growing up in the segregated South.  Photos by cade beck.

Drawing on both her personal experience growing up during the civil rights era as well as her work as a writer, actor, poet and playwright, Alexander presented a series of short narratives and songs to communicate the important role played by ordinary people who stood up for their rights in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“I don’t think that people [who didn’t live through the civil rights movement] have a realistic [view of it]. It was more than Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. People don’t know about ordinary people, college students, who basically changed this country,” said Alexander.

Alexander’s visit to campus was the third installment in the Intercultural Center’s Storyteller Series, which was funded through a cooperative effort between the Intercultural Center and the Black Student Union (BSU) as part of Black History Month. The event was organized by Intercultural Center Director Matt Ozuna and BSU president and Intercultural Center intern Alisha Agard.

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“There’s always the fear … of people not wanting to come because they’re not interested in the subject matter. Because the campus isn’t as racially diverse, it seems sometimes you have to really try hard to get people to come to events about ethnicity … I’m happy; there was a huge turnout and I was really surprised but [also] really satisfied with the turnout tonight,” said Agard.

Agard worked to spread publicity about the event throughout the Walla Walla community, and more than half of the attendees of the speech were from beyond the Whitman campus. Along with Whitman alumni and members of the broader Walla Walla community, several students from Walla Walla University came to hear Alexander speak on the civil rights movement as part of a philosophy course by Professor Linda Emmerson.

“The really good thing is how she can deliver her stories. Her method of doing that is kind of grasping,” said Walla Walla University sophomore Roger Williams.

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After the performance, attendees had the opportunity to ask Alexander questions and speak with her informally during a dessert reception. Alexander hoped her performance raised awareness of the important role played by normal people in bringing about civil rights.

“Youth … have the energy to really make changes in this country, and I certainly saw that during the civil rights movement. It was a lot of young people who got together and demanded change when older people were kind of complacent. I certainly think that youth today could take a lesson from that,” she said.

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