College of Charleston Students Honored for Art, Poetry, Activism

College of Charleston Students Honored for Art, Poetry, Activism

On March 28, 2024, the College of Charleston’s Commemoration and Landscape Committee honored four students for their participation in the Uncovering Our Past Expression of the Year competition: Cadence Browntheater direction, for poetry; Mika Olufemi, with a double major in international studies and mathematics, for art; AND Devin Hammondsbusiness administration direction, and Madison Meeksbranch of chemistry and biochemistry, for activism.

The students’ works are included in the exhibit at the Thaddeus Street Jr. Education Center. Septima Clark Memorial Auditorium and convey the ongoing efforts and work needed in Charleston to address issues related to racism, sexism and economic disparities – themes and values ​​that black educator, leader and activist Septima Poinette Clark expressed through her life.

Brown writes poetry to advocate for change and draw attention to injustices. Her poem, “Black Girl, Don’t Speak,” says contest judges – Gary Jacksonassociate professor of English and director of the College’s undergraduate creative writing program; McKayla Watkins ’19 (MFA), member of the English language faculty; AND Techa Smalls-Brownadjunct faculty member for teacher education and director of the Sisters of Septima – “takes us on a lively journey, led by a central speaker with a harsh and powerful voice, using a chorus that changes over time, first to problematize enforced silence, then to problematize enforced speech, and finally to reclaim the speaker’s discourse freedom over speech, ending triumphantly.

“I was extremely excited to hear about the Septima Clark competition as a black woman who started my educational journey and a future educator who hopes to provide children with the representation I rarely had growing up,” says Brown. “I realize how influential Mrs. Clark was and is in the literary education of black people, and I wanted to be able to honor her and what she has done for me.”

Olufemi’s art, rather than commemorating Clark, “presents a contemporary reimagining of the image of a bold and strong black woman — even unapologetic in her gaze,” the judges say. Sarah Frankelchair of the Studio Art Department and Chase Quinn, co-director of education and programs and curator of special projects at the Gibbes Art Museum.

Hammonds and Meeks won in the activism category. Hammonds, a 1967 Heritage Scholar, plans to contribute to reducing food insecurity in Charleston with monthly Freedom Bag Food Drives. Hammonds was inspired by Clark’s work on local issues involving public health and food stamp programs. Meeks partnered with local nonprofits to give CofC students opportunities to earn community service hours.

In addition to displaying the work of these students, the exhibit in the Septima Clark Memorial Auditorium now also features Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; his Charleston graduate chapter, Gamma Xi Omega, of which Clark was president from 1952-54; and the College of Charleston’s Iota Omicron undergraduate chapter. Other images commemorate generations of CofC student-activists alongside local heroes who, like Clark, created positive change in their communities.

STUDENTS Tanner Crunelle ’20 (MFA ’24), Alex Ford AND Jamirika Randall helped produce exhibit with English professor Julia Eichelberger and members of Gamma Xi Omega, assistant professor of history Shannon Eaves and associate professor of English and director of the Heritage Program 1967 Valerie Frazier ’91 (MPA ’94).

“Often, the most surprising and meaningful part of creating an exhibition at the College is the contributions made by students,” says the sociology and anthropology faculty member. Joanna Gilmore, who designed the exhibition. “The competition gave students an opportunity to interpret and convey issues championed by Septima P. Clark. The poetry, artwork, and activism projects created and completed by Cadence, Mika, Devin, and Madison encourage us to see through their eyes, through new perspectives that demonstrate the continuing importance and power of activism. As a lifelong educator, I think Septima Clark would be proud of the ways these students are honoring her legacy.”

To learn more, visit the College of Charleston’s Discovering Our Past website.

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