Campus News

Freedom Breakfast honors role of women in civil rights struggle

The female perspective took center stage Jan. 12 at the 2007 Freedom Breakfast, the annual meal that kicks off UGA’s celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Master of ceremony Cheryl Dozier, associate provost for institutional diversity, told the crowd of about 350 that this year’s theme would remember the sacrifices by women during the civil rights era and honor the current impacts women are making toward equality.

“The challenge to each of us is to spread the influence of Dr. King’s dream and his teaching so that more of us may learn it and incorporate it into our own lives,” Dozier said.

She introduced a trio of successful Athens women, including Mayor Heidi Davison, associate music professor Stephanie Tingler and graduate student Daleah Goodwin, before keynote speaker Evelyn G. Lowery took the podium.

Lowery led the audience through some of her own struggles as she marched, taught, listened, protested and sang her way through the civil rights era and beyond. The founder of the highly lauded SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. talked about the organization’s role in providing aid to single mothers, working women and parents whose children passed away. She also spoke of her interpretation of King’s message.

“Often I feel that the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is the only thing that most people know about Dr. King,” she said. “We think that it ends there, but that’s wrong. He says, ‘I have a dream that one day. . .’ which means that his dream still is not fulfilled.

“We must continue his dream,” Lowery added. “Ask young people: Do you have a dream? Do you know who will take the places of those that went before you?”

She said her efforts continue today through service organizations across the country. A group of students at Spelman College recently protested the disrespectful lyrics in popular rap songs, which Lowery saw as a continuation of the struggles still facing the nation today and the people who will stand up to fight them.

“Get excited about Dr. King’s dream. Make it a reality,” she said. “Get excited about making your own dream into a reality. In the terms of the movement, get fired up.”

The function also served as a platform to recognize the winners of the President’s Fulfilling the Dream Awards, which are presented to people from UGA and the Athens area who have made significant efforts to build bridges of unity and understanding in the community. Five people received awards this year.

Recipient Maria Navarro is an assistant professor in the department of agricultural leadership, education and communication. One of her classes organizes a Hunger Banquet for the UGA community each semester. Her teaching focuses on establishing global, socially conscious and effective curricula in higher education.

Karl Scott, another award winner, is a teacher at Clarke Middle School and started the Bethlehem Cemetery Restoration Project. Scott’s research and dedication to the project has brought together a community to restore the historical property.

Award recipient Steve C. Jones, a Superior Court Judge of the Western Judicial Circuit and chair of Partners for a Prosperous Athens, has consistently brought awareness to critical issues that affect all citizens of Clarke County.

Maurice Daniels, the dean of the School of Social Work at UGA, also won the award. He has done extensive research on civil rights, which was used in the creation of a book and three films about the desegregation of UGA. He is also co-founder and director of the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies, which chronicles the civil rights movement in Georgia.

Harry Sims grew up in segregated Athens and has dedicated his life to serving the people of his hometown. This UGA alumnus and award recipient spent 29 years teaching at Barrow Elementary School.

Now retired, he is chair of the deacon ministry of East Friendship Baptist Church. He also serves on the Athens-Clarke County ­Commission.