Luther College Black Student Union commemorates 50 years

Fall events kickoff during homecoming Oct. 26-27

Tensions across the country were high in 1968: Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4; U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated during a primary victory rally on June 5; Anti-Vietnam protests were in full swing; And a group of Luther College students paved the way for generations to come with the creation of the Black Student Union.

Luther will celebrate the establishment of the Black Student Union throughout the 2018-19 academic year, with the kickoff during homecoming weekend, and a closing alumni program April 26-28, 2019.

In the fall of 1968, Luther students Jerry Hutch, Byron Dean, Augusta Stephens, Reulan Walter and Carmen Allison formed the BSU as a way to "better prepare black students for an existence in the predominately white Luther College community, and to change the attitude of that community, which was at best apathetic, and in many cases actively hostile."

The year-long commemoration began with a chapel service Oct. 7 and a film screening of "Agents of Change" Oct. 18.

Commemoration activities get their formal kick-off Thursday, Oct. 25, with Maggie (Steinberg) Hagen, Luther class of 2015, presenting the religion forum, "'Here We Stand': Reflections on Luther's Racial History and Legacy," at 7 p.m. in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall. The forum focuses on Luther's history, Hagen's experiences on campus and her research into Luther's response to key racialized moments in American history.

All BSU alumni, current students and friends are invited to the BSU homecoming reception 4-6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, in Norby House. Current students and the public will have a chance to connect with alumni from the founding and early years of the BSU. The event is open to the public with no charge for admission, however an RSVP is requested. RSVP at http://www.luther.edu/alumni/events/bsu/Friday-rsvp/. Commemoration T-shirts will be on sale for $15.

Saturday's events begin with the homecoming parade at 10 a.m. through downtown Decorah to the Luther campus.

Following the parade is the Diversity at Luther College: A Celebration Brunch, hosted by Lisa Scott, Luther's interim dean for institutional equity and inclusion, at 11 a.m. in Baker Commons. The brunch event includes an update on current equity and inclusion efforts at Luther, with an opportunity for alumni to become more involved or re-engage in the process. It will also be an introduction of Denise and Willie Davismckennie, Luther class of 1982 and 1984, respectively, as the new co-presidents of the Luther College Alumni Association. The cost is $15 per person, with RSVP requested. This is an alumni and friends event only. Register at http://www.luther.edu/alumni/events/bsu/rsvp/.

Also beginning homecoming weekend is the opening of the exhibit "50 Years of BSU at Luther College." Luther College archivist Hayley Jackson, along with Emily Mineart, interlibrary loan coordinator, created a timeline exhibit featuring historic photographs and documents from the 50 years of the BSU. In addition to showing events related to the BSU, the exhibit features national events to provide a historical context for what was happening outside Luther and to demonstrate how these events impacted students at Luther. The exhibit is on display Oct. 26 through the remainder of the academic year on the main level of Preus Library.

Following homecoming, fall activities include the embodied dialogue "Issues of Color: It's More than Black and White," directed by Luther Professor of Dance Jane Hawley, class of 1987, Friday, Nov. 2; and the 2018 Women and Gender Studies Endowed Price Lecture by Gaone Masire, Luther class of 1982, head of Human Resources for the African Union, Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, Nov. 27.

Spring events kick off with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day lecture by Roger Pulliam, assistant vice chancellor emeritus of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and culminate with the alumni reception weekend April 26-28.

For more information on the BSU yearlong celebration, visit http://www.luther.edu/alumni/events/bsu.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,005, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.