Pugh, the community outreach coordinator for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, encouraged students from Maddox Middle School, Parrish High School and a few from Walker High School to study their history by saying, “History is more than what’s in your books.”
After performances by Rodniesha Harris, Jessica Coger and Josh Payne, Dr. Kim Ennis, Dean of Students on Bevill’s Jasper campus, welcomed those in attendance, spoke briefly about the Civil Rights Movement and then introduced Pugh.
“The 2014 national black history theme is ‘Civil Rights in America.’ The revolutionary American Thomas Payne held that civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society. From the beginning of our republic freeing people of African-American descent has been a part of that struggle of civil rights,” Ennis said.
“... This is the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” she continued. “And, as I’ve said, so many individuals, groups and organizations have worked together over the past 50 years to ensure equal rights for all.”
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute opened in 1992. Ennis added that it has documented the struggles of African-Americans in Birmingham from the past, and it provides educational programs to students wanting to explore lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and empowers them with a better understanding of the movement.
Pugh earned the students’ applause and laughter right from the start of his presentation; however, he quickly caught their attention by randomly choosing 10 kids from the audience.
Forming two teams, five students to each team, Pugh turned what could’ve been a 30-minute lecture on the Civil Rights Movement into an interactive, hands-on learning experience for the students by introducing them to a Civil Rights trivia game.
In the fashion of the game show “Family Feud,” Pugh asked the students five questions total pertaining to the Civil Rights era.
For example, three of the questions were name places or things that would have been segregated during the Civil Rights Movement, name a city that you would think of when you think about the Civil Rights Movement and name the most recognized villains of the Civil Rights Movement.
“Black history is not just black history. We put these titles on the front of these to kind of signify what’s going on and the importance of what it is to a particular race or a particular group of people, but the true fact of the matter is that it is American history,” Pugh said. “It is important that we understand it, that we don’t just designate February as the only month that we serve and discuss black history because it is American history.”
After Pugh’s presentation, 12-year-old JaRay Nalls from Bankhead Middle School had the crowd give a standing ovation as he gave a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King describing what he envisioned King would say if he were still alive today.
Closing the day’s program, Ennis introduced Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, who presented Pugh with a check for the institute on behalf of Walker County and the chamber. Special thanks also was given to organizers of the day’s program which included Bevill’s Tiqua Gator and the college’s diversity committee, Antwain Satterfield, Evie Moore and Rev. Brian Savage.
“We look forward to having you back again. [It’s an] outstanding program, and every year I say it gets better and better and better,” Lewis said. “I thank everybody that was a part of this outstanding program.”
“In closing, I have a challenge for you. This is the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, don’t ever forget that. When you leave here today, 50 years ago history was made for our country in a way we could not have imagined then,” Ennis said. “We all enjoy freedoms because of that Civil Rights legislation, don’t forget that. I challenge the school officials to some time go back and include the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in your history lesson so they can understand the importance of what that legislation meant to this country and so many people.”