Award presented to founder of Civil Rights Week

BY BERV OPONG ’16
Contributing Writer

The Black Student Union (BSU) recently honored Chyann Starks ’13 with the prestigious Bridgett Award. Starks was presented the award for her role in founding F&M’s first Civil Rights Week and in bringing Cornel West, professor, theologian, and activist, to campus for a Common Hour presentation.

Starks was presented the award at the BSU’s Black Carpet Formal on Saturday, March 23 in honor of her efforts. The award is named for one of F&M’s first African-American graduates, Sydney Bridgett ’51, and honors student contributions to advancing civil rights at the College.

“I and so many alumni are so moved by and proud of Chyann and others who have continued the tradition of leadership by students of African descent in the College community,” said Tony Ross ’91, chair of the African-American Alumni Council (AAAC), when presenting Starks with the award. Starks said it was a great honor to be selected as the recipient of this year’s BSU award.

“Part of being accepted to F&M is to receive the gifts and opportunities the College presents to us,” Starks said during her acceptance speech. “It is important to find productive ways to use what we are given and to work to make F&M a better community.”

She also extended thanks to Daniel Porterfield, president of the College, and Linda Hasunuma, assistant professor of government, as well as the BSU, Common Hour Committee, and others for their role in helping to make Civil Rights Week a success.

Starks was inspired to create Civil Rights Week following the untimely death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Starks hoped to bring the national discussion of race to F&M’s campus. She worked with members of the BSU, faculty, and staff to create an event that would promote critical thought and discussion about racial issues and awareness of the African-American experience. This event turned into Civil Rights Week.

The week culminated in a Common Hour given by West.

“Get contested, unsettled, turned around,” West said during his Common Hour presentation. “When you’ve emerged, you have to learn how to die. Learn how to think critically.”

Starks, a Spanish major, hopes to secure a job abroad as an English teacher. It is her hope, as well, that Civil Rights Week will become a tradition at F&M because of the potential it has to alleviate racial issues and tensions in the campus community.

“Racism is inextricably woven into American history and culture, but as long as we have meaningful dialogue about these ‘sensitive’ is- sues, we can move towards a more empowered and united community without prejudice and injustice,” Stark said.

For reference: some quotes appearing in this article were taken from “Bridgett Award Honors Cre- ator of F&M’s First Civil Rights Week,” an article appearing on F&M’s website on April 5.

Questions? Email Berv at bopong@fandm.edu.

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