Rowan hosts the 18th annual Rosa Parks luncheon

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Centerpieces with Rosa Parks' photo sat on the table of the luncheon. - News Intern / Abigail Twiford

The 18th Annual Rosa Parks Scholarship Luncheon was held on Feb. 28 in the Eynon Ballroom of the Chamberlain Student Center. This was the first year the event has been held since the Covid-19 pandemic imposed lockdowns in early 2020. This year’s luncheon aimed to commemorate the 2023 Black History Month theme of “Black Resistance.”  

Ticket prices were $50 for students, $65 for general admission and $520 for a student table of eight attendees. There was also the option to sponsor a student for $50. All proceeds went to the Gary Hunter Scholarship Program, in memory of Gary Hunter Ph.D, the creator of the African American Studies program at Rowan University. Members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity attended to present a $1000 donation check to the scholarship fund, which was matched by the director of student enrichment and family connections, Julie Peterson. 

In the foyer of the ballroom, a display of photos, books and fact note cards relating to Black history were laid out on tables, as well as a collection of historical and modern dolls portraying both real and fictional Black women from history and media.

“Rosa Parks defied history by refusing to give up her seat on the bus. In my research I found that there was a girl who did the same thing a few weeks before, her name was Claudette Colvin… we also feature unsung heroes… there is a lot more history after her [Rosa Parks],” said Faye Robinson, a Rowan alumnus and retired professor of library science who participated in the planning of the luncheon and set up the entryway.

 Robinson highlighted the role of representation in social progress, using historical dolls of stereotypical portrayals of African American women compared to modern dolls that have a variety of hair and clothing styles to represent the change in society since the time of Rosa Parks. 

The keynote speaker was Kellie Carter Jackson III, a Knafel Assistant Professor of the Humanities at Wellesley College and author of the book, “Force & Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence,” which was on sale in the library. 

Jackson was unable to be there in person due to a flight cancellation, but she gave her presentation on the importance of Black abolitionists and her book via Zoom. 

“The main reason I came was for the keynote speaker, Kellie Carter Jackson. I read ‘Reconsidering Roots: Race, Politics, and Memory.’ I have the book in my room and I was like, ‘I really want to see her,’” said Kit Lillia, a psychology major who was referencing a scholarly collection of essays Jackson had co-edited. 

After a group singing of “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” the Negro National Anthem, student violinist Xavion Collier gave a musical presentation of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” 

“It was great to be back here and to perform again, to see everyone’s faces. The program was really great and I learned a lot from Miss Jackson’s presentation,” Collier said.

Closing remarks were given by Chanelle Rose Ph.D., coordinator of African-American Studies in the Department of History. 

“The speaker was dynamic, the topic was timely, provocative and informative. It was great to have students, faculty and community here… it’s great to support this event and have it here every year,” Rose said. 

Rose used the opportunity on stage to bring organizers Peterson and Department of History administrative assistant Denise Williams to the stage to thank them for their years of service, as both women plan to retire from their leadership roles after this year. 

“I think the event went very well. It was well attended, the speaker was fabulous. She was the speaker we needed in this type of atmosphere to re-educate our students on history, especially Black history, in the climate we’re in today,” Williams said. “We look forward to having more programs and bringing more speakers to this campus.”

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