The intersection of reflecting on the past, examining the present and looking toward the future regarding racial issues occurred Wednesday evening in Neumiller Lecture Hall with the viewing and discussing of a classic American film.
As part of the university’s year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Bradley hosted a viewing and discussion of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. The movie focuses on a white Southern lawyer who defends a black man against a wrongful rape charge.
“One of our goals as a committee is to provide Bradley students with a history of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s,” said Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Stacey Robertson. “Part of this involves understanding the larger racial context in the decades preceding the 1960s.”
“‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ encompasses many difficult issues, such as racial inequality and rape, in a moving and riveting way,” Director of the Pre-Law Center Nicole Meyer said. “Retired folks are going to take something different out of it than students.”
Attorney Clifford Scott-Rudnick, assistant professor at The John Marshall Law School, and attorney Don Jackson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Peoria branch, facilitated the discussion. They interacted with the audience by posing questions and presenting legal and historical perspectives on the issues the movie presented.
University President Joanne Glasser also spoke about the influence discrimination and “To Kill a Mockingbird” had on her life.
“As a young girl growing up in Baltimore…I grew up in [a world like that movie],” Glasser said. “This story helped shape my life, and what kind of person I wanted to be when I grew up. The feelings never leave you. I wanted to do something good, good for others.”
While acknowledging that a lot of progress has been made since her childhood in Baltimore, Glasser said that working in higher education demands attention to inclusion as well.
“As educators, we strive to not only open up the minds of students but open up their hearts as well,” Glasser said.
While Neumiller was not filled to capacity for the showing, those who attended appreciated the event.
‘“To Kill a Mockingbird’ is one of the movies that inspired many people to become lawyers,” Pre-Law Club President Brittany Shaw said. “Even though student turnout was not as high as we would have liked, people still showed up, which showed they cared.”
Senior history and secondary education major Megan Ramlo said she agreed with Shaw reflecting on her own liking of the film and its context in Bradley’s year-long theme.
“As one of my favorite books and films, I was excited to see ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ come to campus,” said senior history and secondary education major Megan Ramlo. “I liked that we discussed and not only watched the film.”
Robertson said it is important to understand who we are and where we came from, which is illustrated in part, in “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
“The movie raises important issues still in relation to our current criminal justice system,” Robertson said. “Why are people of color disproportionately represented in our nation’s prisons? How can we be more fair, more sensitive, more inclusive and more responsive?”