Black History Month helps students ‘lead toward legacy’ and supports campus-wide initiative to lead with respect

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With a student body that represents 32 religious preferences, 49 states and 47 nations, Lipscomb University believes in unity, embracing diversity and respect amongst its community. 

In a recent Gathering chapel, L. Randolph Lowry, President of Lipscomb shared of a campus-wide initiative called Respect Leads that would put the principle of respect into practice. 

“Jesus calls us to be a community unified,” said Lowry. “People on the outside don’t understand it. We begin to have that community by having respect for one another.”

This February, in honor of Black History Month, the Office of Intercultural Development is holding a series of events to celebrate the achievements and central role African American individuals played throughout U.S. history as well as continuing important conversations of how to redefine leadership and truly embrace diversity on- and off-campus.    

"As we participate in initiatives such as Respect Leads on campus, we will become more culturally competent and open to important, cultural conversations,” said Lisa Steele, assistant dean of intercultural development at Lipscomb. 

“Black History Month is another way we can learn about and participate in African-American culture. We do not want to just talk about our diversity statistics at Lipscomb, which says 22 percent diversity this year; we want to live it out. We want to have meaningful dialogue and cultivate an atmosphere of inclusion and unity across our campus in academics, chapel and student life, as well as in the Nashville community."

This year’s theme is ‘Leading Towards Legacy,’ and Paulette Cathey, coordinator of African American Studies, says the Office of Intercultural Development chose this topic to empower students to take the courageous steps to live out what they believe.

A kick-off event was held for all Lipscomb students on Thursday, Feb. 2, and students from Kappa Iota Theta, the university’s Black Student Association, shared cultural food and music, as well as created a space for students to come together in unity.  

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Lipscomb's Human Docs, hosted by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, has partnered with the Office of Intercultural Development to present "13th," at 6:30 p.m. in Ward. Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2017 Academy Awards on Feb. 26, "13th" is directed by Ava DuVernay explores mass incarceration and its relationship to slavery and to laws and social norms that mask racism. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery --"except...for crime," that is. In a time of political turmoil, "13th" asks hard questions about how people of faith view their neighbors as well as work for their dignity, freedom and well-being. 

A panel discussion, led by Aerial Ellis, instructor of communication at Lipscomb, will immediately follow the film. Other panelists include: Brandi Kellett, adjunct faculty of English and Modern Languages at Lipscomb; Robert A. Jackson Jr., ENGAGE Initiative at Lipscomb; J.B. Angus, Argosy University; and Alexander Bissell, attorney. 

Throughout the month, the office will also hold several Multicultural Awareness, Skills and Knowledge (M.A.S.K.) chapels to commend diversity and encourage unity on campus.

M.A.S.K. chapels are a part of Lipscomb’s breakout chapel series that meet on Thursday’s at 10:55 a.m. in the Doris Swang Chapel, located in the Ezell Center. All Lipscomb chapels are free and open to the public.

This month’s M.A.S.K. chapels include:

  • Thursday, Feb. 9 – featuring Ernest “Ripp” Patton, a Freedom Rider who took part in the May 24, 1961, Greyhound Freedom Ride from Nashville, Tenn. to Jackson, Miss.;
  • Thursday, Feb. 16 – featuring Saran Thompson, a rapper and spoken word performer known as S-Wrap; and
  • Thursday, Feb. 23 – featuring Robert Solomon, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer at Ohio State University.

A special coffee house will be held on Friday, Feb. 17, that will feature spoken word, music and coffee in the Paul Rogers Board Room in the Ezell Center from 5-7 p.m.

On Monday, Feb. 20, Lipscomb will present “Redefining Leadership in Crisis,” an event featuring Captain Ronald Johnson, Missouri Highway Patrol and Commander of the Ferguson Operation in the days following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown.

Described by the New York Times as a man that “redefined leadership in crisis: equal parts police official, preacher, mediator and neighbor, unafraid to convey his inner thoughts, unafraid to cry,” Johnson will moderate a discussion with representatives from the Nashville community about valuable perspectives that law enforcement, ministry, mediation and neighborhood communities bring to bear in crisis moments.

Johnson will also be the featured at The Gathering chapel on Tuesday, Feb. 21, for a conversation with President Lowry, as well as an all-student breakfast on Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 7:30-9 a.m. in the Bison Café.

“This year, I am challenging all of us to intentionally seek ways to demonstrate how the Lipscomb community is one that is characterized as a place that respects others,” said L. Randolph Lowry. “We want to be a community that is built on respect for each other as God’s children; whose faculty, staff and students enjoy relationships where members engage in life together and conversations in a respectful way; that understands and models respect internally before and after these conversations occur; and that understands respect is more than a God-required trait; it is a powerful part of our mission and essential to building successful relationships, professions and lives.

“Respect begins when we take the initiative to get to know people. Respect leads.”

For more information, please contact the Office of Intercultural Development at 615.966.5210.