261 Studiengänge an 10 Fakultäten bietet die MLU, eine beinahe unübersichtliche Anzahl. In unserer Rubrik »Studiengeflüster« stellen unsere Autoren kurz und knapp interessante Aspekte ihres eigenen Studiums vor. Teil 7: “The March Continues”- For MLU student Isabel Neumerkel, a guest lecture on the American Civil Rights Movement became a lasting experience, far beyond her studies.
„We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.» This is what Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous „I Have a Dream» speech in 1963, paraphrasing from the Book of Amos. But what has become of his dream of racial equality today? Has it come true?
An iconic image not only for students of American cultural studies is that of Martin Luther King standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., addressing over 250,000 civil rights supporters and calling for an end to racism. His speech is an example of the many powerful moments that characterize the Civil Rights Movement. But he is also one of the martyrs who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom. Their names and the major events of the movement between 1954 and 1968 are inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Inspired by Dr. King’s paraphrase, there is a film of water flowing over the black granite monument.
„If you look at it in terms of 50 years, we have come a long way,» says Lecia Brooks, director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center (CRMC), „but we can all agree that justice is not rolling down like waters just yet.» The memorial center was created to deepen people’s understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and to remember those who sacrificed their lives for justice, equality and human rights. But it also reminds visitors of the fact that intolerance and injustice still exist in our societies today.
As outreach director of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Ms. Brooks frequently gives presentations all around and outside of the United States to promote tolerance and diversity. Last semester, she visited the Institute of English and American Studies in Halle. Her riveting talk about black history, the Civil Rights Movement, and the current state of political activism in the United States left a lasting impression on me. Not only did she give us a better understanding of African-American history and present-day issues that still need to be tackled, but her way of presenting also made me want to keep listening to her for hours. Luckily, she was coming back to Germany a couple of weeks later. We met again at a Black Lives Matter event in Frankfurt, where she was one of the speakers. It was organized by the ISD (Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland) and consisted of presentations and a panel about racial profiling and refugee politics. Despite her tight schedule, she even took the time to meet me the next day and answered some of my questions.
„As long as there are people willing to take a stand for justice, the march continues,» assures Ms. Brooks, who previously worked for 12 years in a number of roles for the National Conference for Community and Justice in its Los Angeles office. In 2004, she joined the SPLC, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting hate, intolerance and discrimination through litigation and education. Their Intelligence Project tracks and exposes the activities of hate groups, and their Teaching Tolerance Program offers free materials that reduce prejudice and promote educational equity in schools. Given the fact that cases of social injustice still occur on a daily basis, it is all the more important that organizations like this exist.
I am so glad I had (and took) the opportunity to get to know Lecia Brooks and gain insight into these issues as well as the kind of work that people are doing in order to fight hate and promote tolerance. This is, of course, not only an important task restricted to the United States, but also a global obligation, especially given the current situation in and outside of Germany regarding refugee politics. Considering the impact that Ms. Brooks‘ talk had on me, I would like to encourage every one of you to attend guest lectures like these that take place at our university. They can make such a difference to how you experience the world around you. Take the opportunity to discuss, learn, and meet amazing people. It will definitely be worth it.
Text: Isabel Neumerkel
To learn more about the SPLC and the ISD, you can visit their websites:
Film tip: „Selma» (unikino: Jan. 7th 2016 @ 8.15 pm, Audimax, HS XXII)