September 23rd, 2015
Rich in both higher education and civil rights history, Marion, Alabama, served as an appropriate venue for this year’s Lifetime of Learning Conference. Themed “Engaged Learning as Justice Learning,” the event gathered higher education and community partners from across the state on Friday, September 18.
Dr. Jennifer Stollman, academic director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, delivered the morning keynote: “Looking Within: Building our Communities Through Self-Reflection.” Stollman focused on recognizing oppressive behaviors and shared her thoughts and approaches for addressing them.
Morning breakout sessions included presentations from the University of Alabama, Troy University,Judson College, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Perry County School Board, Birmingham Education Foundation, Equal Justice Initiative, and Alabama Possible. Diverse and engaging topics included teaching through simulation, leveraging community assets through network-building, values-based policy analysis, teaching racial history, and service-learning partnerships with local schools.
Attendees had an enlivened lunch listening to Billie Jean Young, the Artist in Residence at Judson College, deliver her keynote address: “Beyond 50 Years: People and Placemaking in Alabama Black Belt.” Young mixed her personal story with performance as she invoked the words of Fannie Lou Hamer and spoke on teaching justice through the arts and the role of Marion in the Civil Rights Movement.
Following lunch, The University of Alabama Honors College’s 57 Miles Initiative led a walking tour of downtown Marion and a tour of Francis Marion High School. This allowed attendees to connect with each other and learn about Marion and the community.
Michelle Forman, Director of the Media Studies Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, concluded the conference with “Through the Lens of Birmingham: Teaching Justice with Film.” She spoke to the power of media in teaching students and engaging communities through storytelling.