August 8, 2003
History is never finished and Dr. Gaynor Yancey reminds her classes of this fact daily.
In her policy course, Dr. Yancey introduces her students to Carolyn McKinstry, Cleo Kennedy and Joanne Bland through slides and tapes made during her trip to Alabama two summers ago. She brings the lessons she learned there about social and racial justice, perseverance and hope into discussions in her classroom. In addition, she has incorporated a section on community organizing into her curriculum to deal with contemporary justice issues, inviting guest speakers to address the importance of the negotiation and mediation skills originally forged by the Civil Rights Movement.
"The thing I've found challenging as well as somewhat disconcerting," she says, "is that many of our students are growing up without any recognition of the movement's importance. I am now being much more proactive in encouraging students to go home and talk to their parents and grandparents about this, to get their own oral histories within their families."
She also takes these issues beyond the Baylor campus as a guest speaker, offering multiweek sessions on justice, spirituality and civil society at different denominational venues in Waco, educating the congregations on how these civil rights topics relate to established policies as well as those under design, thereby widening the ripple effect of her own transforming experience in Alabama.
"It's much more than a cause now. It's a deep passion in me that everyone hear the stories -- not just about the movement, but about the people, their pain," Dr. Yancey says. "Meeting Carolyn and Joanne and Cleo and hearing their stories deeply affected me. That takes us into relationship together -- that relationship forms a deep sense of community. Relationship and community suggest that if you've been hurt by the injustice, then I have, too. It takes us working together to bring about change."
In 1963, four little girls were murdered. Forty years to the month later, four women whose choices got shaped by that fatal September moment continue to live, not just through memories of the past, but in full-scale, ongoing action, pursuing equality's imperative. The symmetry of this equation, and its effect on Dr. Yancey, reminds us that for every sacrifice, there can be a commensurate offering that grows eternal. In the end, the tally might just balance out.
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