The Civil Rights Movement has long passed but economic, political and social disparity still exist. Dr. Barbara Patrick, a political science professor at Eastern Michigan University, gave a presentation on Sept. 24 to address how racial segregation and discrimination are being challenged by the millennial generation.
Patrick began by speaking about her upbringing and the hardships she endured growing up. Born in Delta, she grew up in the face of poverty. She discussed how she sometimes didn’t have all the school supplies she needed for school; wearing shoes that had holes in them, not being able to afford socks to wear in the winter and coming home to no electricity was somewhat common.
From as young as six years old Patrick said she wanted to make it her mission to be able to change lives. She shared with the audience an experience she learned from a Sunday school teacher while attending church.
“We all have a start date, we all have an end date and we all have a dash,” Patrick said. “That dash represents your life.”
Patrick said she has taken this quote and uses it to educate people. During the discussion, she talked about a time she visited her sister in Mississippi and her sister informed her of a nine year old boy in the neighborhood that was repeating the first grade for the third time. She later found out that the boy was picked on at school for not having the things that he needed, just like she didn’t when she was child. Patrick knew she wanted to help him and decided to take him shopping for supplies.
Patrick later discovered after taking the boy home that he had four brothers and sisters. They lived in a single lodged trailer with no electricity and no running water. Patrick wanted to continue helping the boy through school. This was her "dash."
Patrick went on to talk about three Civil Rights Activist’s that did something astounding with their dash. One of them being James Meredith, who became the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi in 1962.
The University made it hard for Meredith to enroll in the school and tried by any means not to accept him. Meredith then filed a law suit against the University alleging discrimination. He lost the case in the state courts but the case made its way to Supreme Court which ruled in his favor.
Patrick stated that President John F. Kennedy sent three-thousand U.S marshals to escort Meredith to the University because the riots had broken out in attempt to block him from registering for class. He was eventually allowed to enroll at the school. However, was followed by continuous bullying and harassment.
"What did James Meredith decided to do with his dash?” Patrick asked the crowd. “Meredith chose to use his dash to say that citizens in this country should have access to the institution of higher education of their choice and can’t be denied based off what you look like or where you come from.”
Despite the hardships, Meredith obtained his degree from the University of Mississippi in political science in 1963 and later received a master's degree in economics from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and a law degree from Columbia
University in 1968.
Following the presentation, the floor was opened for students to ask questions. One student asked: “What are some ways EMU’s students can get involved on campus or in our communities to help people who face issues of not having necessities such as food, shelter and supplies?’’
Patrick recommended getting involved with some of the organizations at Eastern Michigan University that aid in helping people who are less fortunate or socializing with people who may not look like you. Just starting a conversation could lead to all the help they need.