Program never forgets Civil Rights lessons

6:16 PM, Feb 1, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - The talk of the Civil Rights Era is never ending, and it's always evolving. On the Auraria campus, that conversation continues with thousands of students from different walks of life.

Inside Dr. Winston Grady-Willis's African Studies class every student, no matter their ethnicity learns that they're all connected through the course.

"We're learning that Africa is the birthplace of man, and it gives us a better understanding of why we're here," Chayyiel Jackson said.

"Just to know where everything started and to know how the different civilizations came to be is really good," Chrissy Urbano said.

What students may not know is how their African Studies class started. Dr. Grady-Willis says African and African-American Studies came about at Metro State University in 1969. It was formed because of the Civil Rights Movement.

"One of the most tangible manifestations of those Civil Rights struggles is actually our field, and it's why we take our major and minor in the department of African and African-American studies so seriously," Grady-Willis said. "It's a field of study that's born of struggle, so it's really important for folks to understand that every professor that sits before them owes a debt to people, a generation, two generations, tree generations ago who made it possible for us to do what we do."

It was nearly 50 years ago when people marched through streets and held rallies for equal rights. Leaders were born during this era, sacrifices were made and lives were lost, but decades later, those stories are still told.

"To really appreciate black experiences, you have to do so academically with intellectual vigor [and] sophistication. That's what we try and do on a daily bases here. Those lesser-known folks - the postal worker the blank domestic worker - this is our chance to tell those stories as well," Grady-Willis said.

The chance to tell the stories of those who fought for equality was made possible by the university. They made a vow that the rich history of a people will never be untold.

"Fortunately, the powers that be here who realized that Metro State would be a much better institution, would really be able to uphold its mission as a diverse institution if our department was in place," Grady-Willis said.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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