This story was corrected on Sept. 5, 2013. An explanation follows the story.
Starting tonight, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center will present a two-day symposium, “Civil War to Civil Rights: The Well-being of a Nation.” The program, a partnership with the university’s school of public health and public policy, is the launch of a larger endeavor, the National Civil War Project and Center, a multi-city, multi-year collaboration between four universities and five performing arts organizations commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
The Civil War to Civil Rights symposium specifically observes the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and examines the state of our nation today. The program features a long list of keynote speakers, including activists Julian Bond and Marian Wright Edelman, and a series of discussions and performances. Below are some of the highlights of the two-day event.
Senior government and politics major Andrew Mulinge will join three other University of Maryland student activists on Friday afternoon for a discussion entitled “And the March Continues.” The conversation, facilitated by Truman scholar and fellow University of Maryland student Mohammad Zia, focuses on the new era of civil rights activism.
“There are so many issues that are going on today in society ... it may not be being called an inflammatory name to your face or being in a situation where you couldn’t drink out of a certain fountain, but there’s definitely a lot of problems that exist in the African American community and here in America,” Mulinge said. “ ... We live in a bubble being at a state university and doing our thing in college we forget that there are still a lot of people in our community that are still victims to the institutionalized systems that oppress us.”
Mulinge, a Montgomery County native and graduate of Clarksburg High School, is the co-president of Community Roots, a student activist group dedicated to promoting social change.
“What Maryland prides itself on is its diversity,” Mulinge said. “So we take that to our advantage and we use our different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs in order to promote social change and social action ...”
“And the March Continues” will examine the younger generation’s dealings with issues of race and how the Civil Rights era has affected them.
“The Civil Rights era has had a huge impact on me personally and academically,” Mulinge said. “My supporting sequence is in African American studies. And I say that because I didn’t major in it, but after taking an African American Studies course, I learned so much that it actually supplemented a lot of what I learned in my government classes. And through that, I took profound interest in discovering how impactful the Civil Rights Movement was.”
Mulinge had an opportunity to explore that interest even further this summer through The Institute for Responsible Citizenship, a group aimed at the career development of young black males. This summer, students with the institute had the opportunity to meet and speak with congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis.
“We were able to ask him as many questions as we wanted and how his experience with the Civil Rights era impacted him ...” Mulinge said. “That meeting with John Lewis changed my life.”
Mulinge said he’ll use the conversation with Lewis as a jumping-off point for Friday’s panel discussion.
“I can use the Internet, I can use books and everything, but actually being able to hear from [Lewis] and ask about [Martin Luther] King ... being able to hear from someone who actually marched with him, who was very personal with him, that’s very rare,” Mulinge said. “I’ll bring that experience and that torch that he handed down to us to this event.”
The symposium culminates Friday evening when jazz bassist and composer Christian McBride kicks off the center’s 2013-2014 season with a performance of his jazz chorale piece, “The Movement Revisited.”
McBride will lead his Big Band and Washington, D.C.’s Heritage Signature Chorale in the five-movement piece, featuring narration from special guests saye Barnwell, Dion Graham, Scot Reese and activist and artist Harry Belafonte.
“I feel very, very fortunate to have known and have worked with Mr. Belafonte a number of times over the last 18 years,” McBride said. “The fact that he agreed to do this, is just hard to fathom ... You talk about the movement revisited, he’s one of the last people from the movement. He is the movement. So he brings some authenticity that I think will make a tremendous impact ...”
McBride wrote “The Movement Revisited” in 1998 after he was commissioned by the Portland Art Society to write a piece for Black History Month.
The original composition featured four movements or chapters based on four major players in the Civil Rights Era: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. McBride since has added a fifth movement to commemorate the election of President Barack Obama.
“It’s not written for Barack Obama, the man,” McBride said. “It’s written for the events during the Civil Rights Movement that made it possible for a black man to be president of the United States.”
The sound and rhythm of each movement or chapter is meant to reflect the nature of each influential figure. For example, McBride said he tried to capture the “quiet sophistication and soft-spokenness” of Rosa Parks.
“Malcolm X ... his words carry so much weight, I try to capture that in his movement,” McBride said. “And Muhammad Ali ... he’s brash, loud, exciting, but all of his brashness and loudness meant something. Underneath all of that volume was a very wise soul.”
King’s movement is actually divided into two parts: “Soldiers” and “A View from the Mountaintop.”
“‘Soldiers,’ I guess it’s a play on the March on Washington or all of the different marches he coordinated and led ...” McBride said. “The second part is ‘A View from the Mountaintop” and I try to capture the feel of his final speech ...”
McBride said he is honored by the university’s request to play “The Movement Revisited” as a part of the symposium.
“I don’t get to perform that piece very often because it’s pretty large with the Big Band and the choir and the narrator,” McBride said. “When someone requests it, they automatically go on my “I love” list.”
Correction: The original story stated the symposium began Friday instead of Thursday.