For more than two months this summer, 10 Wake Forest University students from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds will participate in an internship program designed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original 1964 Freedom Summer and to renew an interest in the unfinished work of the civil rights movement in the South.
Freedom Summer 2004, an internship program sponsored by the Third Reconstruction Institute, affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), commemorates the 1964 Freedom Summer, a project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and other civil rights groups that brought student and non-student volunteers to Mississippi in an effort to work on voter registration campaigns and advance the cause of the civil rights movement in the South. The 2004 internships bring students from a variety of backgrounds to work with grassroots, multi-racial, ecumenical citizen groups in North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi.
Students from Wake Forest will work with local groups in Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Charlotte and Oxford, Miss., on projects dealing with issues of education reform, economic justice, neighborhood development, health care access, organizational development, immigrant rights and voter rights and education.
“The goal of this program is to light a fire in students for finishing the work of the civil rights movement,” said Stephen Boyd, chair of the religion department at Wake Forest.
“What people need to do and what we hope students in this program will do is engage one another across racial lines, and catch this vision that the good for any of us is good for all of us,” Boyd said.
Boyd, who is an active member of Communities Helping All Neighbors Gain Empowerment (CHANGE), the Winston-Salem affiliate of the IAF, was instrumental in bringing the Freedom Summer program to Wake Forest. He said he has been impressed by the response of the Wake Forest students who are participating, noting that the university’s 10 interns are the most from any university in the state. Other universities sending students to the program include Duke University, Shaw University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University and North Carolina Central University.
Between 25 and 30 Freedom Summer interns will be at Wake Forest June 10 – 12 for training and orientation. After the training, the interns will be sent to a variety of locations in the South for their eight week internships.
Aja Brooks, a Wake Forest student from Hobbs, N.M., who is participating in the internship, said the Freedom Summer 2004 program will provide good training as she plans to pursue a career as a lawyer dealing with civil rights issues. Her experience with the growing Hispanic population in New Mexico has driven her interest in issues concerning immigrant rights, she said. Brooks will spend her internship working with CHANGE in Winston-Salem.
“The growing Hispanic population encounters some of the very same problems that African-Americans did in the sixties,” Brooks said. “The dynamics of the world are changing, and the way we approach civil rights issues must change too. We have to ensure that the fight isn’t exclusive – that it applies to everyone.”
In addition to Brooks, Rebecca Cook, a Wake Forest student from Kenya, and Cameron Latimer, a student from Mitchellville, Md., will be working with CHANGE in Winston-Salem. Terrell Nicholson, a Wake Forest student from Nashville, N.C., and Kyle Layman, a student from Burlington, N.C., are going to Raleigh to work with Raleigh Organized for Action and Results (ROAR).
Polly Elbertse, a Wake Forest student from Hilton Head, S.C., and Jennifer Holland, a student from Huntersville, N.C., will be working in Charlotte with Helping Empower Local People (HELP), the oldest IAF organization in North Carolina.
Three Wake Forest students, including Jeanetta Craigwell-Graham from Goldsboro, N.C., Ashleigh Lawrence from Huger, S.C., and William Murphy from Dunn, N.C., will be going to Oxford, Miss., to work with the AMOS Network, a statewide organization that is active in many communities that were impacted by the original 1964 Freedom Summer.
Murphy, who is a political science major, said he is looking forward to traveling to the Deep South to help those who face racial, economic and social challenges.
“It’s unlikely that I will be able to change everything in Mississippi in the short time I am there, but I know that I am going to be changed through this experience,” Murphy said. “Living in a totally different surrounding and working in harsh conditions far from the comfortable environment in which I live now can only empower my drive and desire to come back home and work for social change everywhere. I may be devoting my time, brainpower and action to this cause, but I know that this program will give me so much more than I could ever give it.”
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