| Carter G. Woodson Speaker Calls for Change
February 19 Students kicked off this year’s Carter G. Woodson weekend in Phelps Stokes Chapel with a very provocative convocation presented by civil rights activist, Reverend Graylan S. Hagler.
February 19 Students kicked off this year’s Carter G. Woodson weekend in Phelps Stokes Chapel with a very provocative convocation presented by civil rights activist, Reverend Graylan S. Hagler. Leader of the Plymouth Congregationalist Church in Washington, DC, Hagler has been described as someone who speaks out for the less fortunate and people whose voices go unrecognized and unheard. Noting Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s usage of history as a liberation strategy, Reverend Hagler addressed the issue of how Woodson’s methodology could be used to analyze and eradicate existing inequities that create racial barriers even after the election of this nation’s first black president.
“There is a racial and cultural divide that continues to exist between white and black, poor and middle class and wealthy, between Latino and white. Our lived realities are so very different from one another. The issue of race is a major factor in the separate reality. Just think the vast bulk of public schools are segregated. We grow up in largely segregated neighborhoods. We go to segregated churches. We even have segregated histories and segregated renderings of history.”
Reverend Hagler, who serves as President for the Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice, chose to address an issue that he believes that people have been afraid to address for many years. Committed to helping develop a better understanding of the lessons applied by Carter G. Woodson, Hagler discussed how Woodson and Berea College initiated revolutionary changes in the racial dynamics of American society without resorting to insurrectionary means.
Acknowledging that many cultural and economic barriers still exist, Hagler reminded the Berean community that back in 1855, “as Berea strived to be interracial at, to speak in the midst of a slave economy, and be coeducational in the midst of a patriarchal world, it was dreaming a world that was not yet” similarly to many of the social conditions that exist as a result of the cultural barriers that exist today. “Yes we can” he prompted students. He urged the community to begin by acknowledging and learning to understand and celebrate the differences within the very diverse “fabric” that makes up American society and then claim this collective heritage as our own.
“…we need to learn to celebrate each other; every ant, every song, every poetic word, every morsel of food, every expression, every action, every language, every religion, every expression until it become our own. And let us struggle more so that none are denied, so that none have to give up who they are in order to be considered part of the American fabric, but that we may understand where someone has come from and what helped to shape them and what helped to make them and understand that that story is too our story. And we need to learn to share in that deep way in that rich way.”
Reverend Hagler, who co-founded the organization United for Peace and Justice and has worked with the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America to help working class people be able to own homes had made it his mission to “practice a progressive ministry of community empowerment” and encourages others to do the same.
“We’ve got to move to a place where the blessed of us are engaged with the rest of us so that the rest of us will eventually become the blessed of us. It is our responsibility… It is our work to build a new world and to structure some new reality.”