As a result of a grant-funded initiative from 2011-2013 with the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Community and Civic Engagement Initiative in the College of Liberal Arts continues to organize meetings and work sessions at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Notasulga on topics related to academic, personal, and workforce success.
Overcoming stereotypes and recognizing the 50th anniversary of many Civil Rights accomplishments were the two main subjects of the second meeting of the Macon Citizens group. Through deliberation on the effects media and pop-culture, students analyzed how both positive and negative connotations are attached to colors which surround us every day. Consequently, those same connotations are attached to people according to skin pigmentation. Overcoming negative stereotypes is a constant struggle, but the students believe it is possible to successfully surpass boundaries and achieve ultimate equality.
The students believe it is important to embrace the cultural differences of each other, and it is also essential to search for common ground by finding presently unrealized qualities in each other. They agreed that if everyone knew the true stories of everyone else, many of those negative stereotypes would vanish. They decided that society needs to set differences aside to grow stronger as a citizenry.
One of the students, Tomas Clark, also shared his personal story of having attended the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in Washington, D.C. Clark, a student at Booker T. Washington High School in Tuskegee, gave his thoughts on hearing many inspirational speeches and seeing numerous historical monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial.
Perhaps the most encouraging takeaway from the night was that these Macon County students exercised their citizenship by talking through issues related to Civil Rights and stereotypes. The students were willing and open to talking about how take more steps in bettering their community. Their willingness to deliberate and learn is an excellent example of what real democratic citizenship is, and their leadership should be encouraging to Macon County.