Wittenberg University will recognize 50 years of activism in support of diversity and racial equality during its annual Concerned Black Students (CBS) Commemorative Walkout scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 14, starting at the University Seal.
On behalf of CBS and the McClain Center for Diversity, the event honors and remembers the historic walkout of 1969 when several students walked out to illuminate racial inequality on campus.
“For those of us who were there, it was a moment when we realized that social change was not just a theoretical proposition,” said Ron Woods, class of 1969, president and founding member of CBS, longtime professor at Eastern Michigan University, and emeritus director of the Wittenberg Board of Directors in a special Spring 2009 issue of the University’s alumni magazine. “It was something you had to be willing to commit to, organize for, and make a sacrifice for.”
Other founding CBS members included Muriel Mitchell Scruggs and Levi Wingard, both class of 1969; Jim Bell, Tyrone Curry, Mary Foxworth, Margie Hemphill Peacock, Larry Peacock, Gregory Pratt, Selena Neal Singletary, and Sandi Williams, all class of 1970; and Beverly Andrews, Tom Catlett, Mary Dillard Daniels, William Hardin, Darryl Herring, Paul Hicks, Norman King, Leonard Lightfoot, Wendy Miller Woods, Alfonso Pearson, Charleyse Smith Pratt, Victor Sheppard, Mark Thomas, and Jim Thrasher, all class of 1971.
CBS, an organization that empowers students of color while educating the university on diversity issues, formed at the end of the tumultuous Civil Rights era of the 1960s in an effort to gain a voice on campus and has evolved into an organization that doesn’t just embrace African Americans, but all Wittenberg students through a variety of events and activities. In recent years, CBS has partnered with such student organizations as the Gender & Sexual Diversity Alliance (GSDA), the American International Association (AIA), the Womyn’s Center, and Student Senate to provide campus programming opportunities.
CBS operates out of the refurbished William A. McClain Center for Diversity (previously known as the Black Culture House), named for the late groundbreaking Cincinnati-based attorney, judge, and member of Wittenberg’s class of 1934. Still considered one of the most respected attorneys in the nation, McClain, who passed away on February 4, 2014 at the age of 101, received numerous honors during his illustrious career, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which recognizes the achievements of outstanding ethnic Americans and their contributions to the nation.
CBS organizes several recognizable events each year, including the Unity March in the fall, the commemorative walkout, a host of Black History Month events in February, and the Martin Luther King Jr. panel discussion in January.
Today and for those who came to Wittenberg shortly after the walkout, CBS has continued to be a place for African Americans on campus to regroup, debate and gather – a kind of home away from home. The group strives to include everyone and celebrate diversity of all kinds, and with its long history on campus, has also laid the groundwork for other groups at the university.
According to past participants in the commemorative walkout, the event of 1969 was a call for change, and it’s a call that continues to bring students together today with many now asking how they can be united, while still celebrating the differences that make them distinctive.