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Black History Month Celebrations bring RCC campus and community together

Robeson Community College hosted numerous events this February in celebration of Black History Month that has helped to bring the campus and the community together.

“We are honored to reflect on the many contributions of African Americans during Black History Month,” RCC President Melissa Singler said. “Each of our events has allowed students to gain a better understanding of Black History, and has taught them to lead with great resolve as they lean towards the future.” 

The month-long celebration included free coffee on Fridays, a visiting artist, a literary event, a service hosted by the RCC Early College, and an evening celebration of Black History Month on the last day of February.

“Black History is time of both celebration and commemoration,” stated Dr. Johnny Smith, the Chief Academic Officer at RCC. “Black History highlights the tremendous triumph over daunting, and unmerited circumstances, while reflecting on the audacious spirit and the will of our ancestral heritage.”

Visiting Artist – Melvin Morris

Earlier in the month, Melvin Morris, a local artist, presented an exhibition of his artwork at Robeson Community College in honor of Black History Month, discussing his inspirations for his art creations.

“It’s always a pleasurable experience to share my artwork,” stated Morris. “Specifically sharing with RCC, the experience was even more rewarding because of the interest to have, me, an artist from our community exhibit. I felt very welcomed throughout my visit and everyone that joined the exhibition was gracious and showed interest in my art as it related to Black History.”

Students, faculty and staff attending gravitated towards Morris’ work, learning a great deal in the process.

“I have gained admiration of his freedom to reflect back on his experiences as an African American man through his art,” stated Asia Muhammed, an English instructor at RCC, who participated in the event.

James Eric Mitchell, the director of Career and College Readiness, agrees with those sentiments, saying, “This event has enlightened me to the representation of the African American Art World and Culture in Robeson County. I did not know that Mr. Morris had a gallery in downtown and that he held events, so this has made me more aware and I will try to make an effort to attend as many events as possible.”

Art has long been an integral part of preserving history, memory, and a source of empowerment for many in Black communities.

“Black History is part of American History and when given the opportunity to share my work with students I like to remind them of the importance of recognizing that fact,” Morris said. “So, when they see me or my work, they can be reminded of the contribution of black artists to the artworld.” 

Morris adds, “I am truly an advocate for honoring Black History all year verses one month out of the year. I thank RCC for honoring Black History Month and allowing me to exhibit on campus.” 

So, what’s his favorite artwork created so far?

“For me, it is a sculpture that I was commission to do and it stands in the plaza of downtown Lumberton,” Morris said. “It is representative of the water, children and music which is a focus on the slash pad area and events that the city host through the year.” 

“I have created lots of work – paintings, murals, small sculptures – and I feel tremendous gratitude for works that I am commissioned to do. Whenever I see that my work has touched an individual and they are satisfied with the outcome, each piece becomes a favorite,” Morris said. “However, I would have to add, as an artist, you would like to have work that is lasting, and people could see what you added to the “art world.”’

Morris is looking forward to collaborating with Robeson Community College again this fall.

“I will be exhibiting more artwork in library to add a little more creative “ambiance” to the space,” Morris said.

View photos of this event on Facebook.


Black Voices: A Celebration of African American Literature and Art

On a Friday morning in the middle of February, the campus gathered in the library for a literary event which helped bring ‘Black History’ to life through the words of prominent authors who overcome adversity to have their stories told. 

One poem that was read aloud was Black is Beautiful. 

“It is a very beautiful poem that was appropriate for Valentine’s Day and also incorporated Black History Month,” stated Koba Bryant, the SGA President, who recited the poem. “Being Black is beautiful, it is a powerful message of self-love, and it was a very good poem to read.”

And, that was part of the reason in hosting the event.

“Being educated is important, and we need literacy to be successful to develop as a student, an educator, a person,” stated Donte McDowell, an English Instructor who organized the event. “The idea of Black Voices: Celebrating African American Art and Literature came by thinking about black authors who broke barriers to have their voices amplified, so others could feel their experiences.”

“I wanted to bring Black History to Robeson Community College and our community so people could understand the complexities, the struggle, and pride that African Americans encountered,” McDowell said. “African American literature has and will always captivate an audience to be empowered and cultivated by words. “

The audience was indeed engaged and captivated by each word that was spoken.

“As a literature buff, I thoroughly enjoyed the literary event… I was very familiar with several passages and excerpts that were read that day. However, the one that stood out the most was Ms. Donte’s rendition of Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall,” stated Courtney Jacobs, the Executive Assistant to the President and Board of Trustees. “She gave life to the poem with enthusiasm and emotions, showing the audience the little white shoe that the mother found of her baby girl. It was compelling and heartbreaking at the same time. I would imagine the event left an impact on everyone who attended.”

The event was standing room only, with a diverse group from all walks of life attending – high school students, adult learners, faculty from various programs on campus, staff from maintenance to financial aid to continuing education, and members of the community.

“The turnout was amazing,” President Singler stated. “I would love to see an even bigger turnout next year.”

“It was everything I could have asked for,” stated McDowell. “Just the support was amazing… I knew then the audience felt and were evoked by the emotions that were read on the pages. This event had a powerful impact, so I am proud.”

The literary works that were read aloud during the event are below:

“Ballad of Birmingham” by Dudley Randall– read by Mrs. Donte McDowell
“Hey Black Child”- by Useni Eugene Perkins, read by Mr. Christian McArthur
“Black is Beautiful”- Author Unknown, read by Mr. Koba Bryant
“Phenomenal Woman”- by Dr. Maya Angelou, read by Mrs. Sherry Lofton,
“Your World” – by Georgia Douglas Johnson,- read by Mrs. Wendy Fields
The Peach Seed by Anita Gail Jones, read by Dr. Elizabeth Hernandez
“Young Soul”– by Amiri Baraka,- read by Mr. Joey Hinson
“America” and “If We Must Die” by Claude McKay- read by Mrs. Asia Muhammad, and “Mother to Son” and “I, Too”- by Langston Hughes, –read by Dr. Johnny Smith

“This was a lot of fun… I like poetry and this event re-awakened me to an author that I hadn’t read in a while,” stated Joey Hinson, a psychology instructor at Robeson Community College. “It had been a few years, and I’ve been looking up his work and been on Amazon to order his book.”

“There has been a lot of celebration this year of Black History at RCC,” Hinson added. “It has been continuous, which has allowed us to have a richer experience of the contributions the whole month and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities presented to us.”

View photos of this event on Facebook.


RCC Early College Honors Local Black History Makers

The RCC Early College set out to honor Robeson County’s Black History Makers on February 28. The event was organized by Christian McArthur, a high school student in the Early College, who just wanted to honor his heritage and recognize the contributions of the living legends from Robeson County that had made history.

“I thought it was very important to recognize black historians around Robeson County,” stated McArthur. “It was also very important to me to honor our locals and do something outside of the box and different.”

 Those honored during the event included:

  • Reverend Dr. Victor L. Alford, the 1st Black Visually Impaired Minister ordained in the Lumber River Baptist Association
  • Loistine Defreece, 1st Black Female Principal
  • Anna K. Maynor, Black Financial Aid Director of RCC, Retired
  • Damien McLean, Black Chief Deputy Sheriff
  • Chief Michael McNeil, 1st Black Chief of Police, Lumberton
  • Robin Peace, 1st Black Female Chief Medical Officer of Southeastern Health
  • Judge Tiffany Powers, 1st Black Superior Court Judge, 1st Female Superior Court Judge
  • Judge Herbert Richardson, 1st Black Assistant District Attorney, 1st Black District Court Judge, 1st Black Chief District Court Judge
  • Judge T. Diane Surgeon, 1st Black Female Assistant Public Defender
  • Angust B. Thompson, Jr. 1st Black Chief Public Defender
  • C. Washington, Black Business Owner
  • Andrea Whitted, 1st Black Deputy Clerk
  • Ted Williams, 3rd Black State Trooper

The service also included the singing of the Black National Anthem by the RCC Early College Choir.

“That was my favorite part,” said McArthur, who serves as the early college’s choir director. “There were some things that had happened behind the scenes, with new people being added, and we didn’t have a lot of time to practice… but in the end, everyone came together and everything sounded just right.”  

Rikki Hanner, an early college student, gave a presentation on the purpose of Black History Month, followed by presentations by Alphonzo McRae and Reverend John Campbell.

“This has been a wonderful month at Robeson Community College to remember those who have come before us and the barriers that they have overcome, and the work that still needs to be done,” stated Eric Freeman, the Executive Vice President.  “This event with the RCC Early College shows that we have made progress through the success of each person that was recognized today – Robeson County’s Black History Makers.”

View photos of this event on Facebook.

Evening Celebration of Black History Month – This Is Why I Sing

Robeson Community College concluded its month long celebration of Black History with an evening ceremony, on the last day of February, leap day.

The service was filled with song and dance, including a liturgical dance presentation by Atmosphere Shifter, followed by words of inspiration from the guest speaker, Kelvin Barnes, titled, This is Why I Sing.

“The reason why we sing ought to be to come together as one people,” Pastor Kelvin L. Barnes of Sandy Grove Missionary Baptist Church said as he spoke to the crowd gathered to celebrate Black History. “It’s our duty to change hearts and minds.” 

Barnes’ speech was one filled with hope, love to bring unity, and victory and it was a message meant to inspire those young and young-at-heart

“It’s time to stop separating and doing our own thing,” he told, as he lead the charge for change.

“Dr. King led with words, but he also led with deeds,” Barnes said, reminding everyone the need to take action and to be the difference they hope to see in the world.

As the Bible says in Hebrews 11:1, “hope is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

“Hope is found in the little stories that happen in the lives of God’s people every day,” Barnes said, bringing understanding of why it is so important to continue to carry the torch, sharing not only the history of African Americans, but also their stories of resilience, hope, and faith.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Also speaking in the evening service was Koba Bryant and Dr. Johnny Smith, reciting African American Literary Works.

“I am reciting the Poems of Black Author and Poet, Mr. Langston Hughes, who expressed the majority of his works through the Harlem Renaissance period,” stated Dr. Smith. “The first poem will be “Mother to Son” along with “I, Too.” These poems speak to the perseverance and the unwavering need to be seen and heard, giving voice I and context to the black experience.” 

“Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967. Not only was Hughes known for his poetry and ability to narrate the black experiences, he was also involved in social activism, play writes and journals,” Dr. Smith told the audience.

“The event tonight ended on a high note,” stated Lynn Criswell, the Administrative & Planning Assistant to the VP of Instruction and Student Support. “What I gained from this experience is that it can be said that we sing to come together in unity, because that is where we will all find victory.”

Many say that the month of February at Robeson Community College was filled with thought provoking and inspiring events.

“It has been a delight to engage in the black history month events this year at Robeson Community College,” stated Tami George, Vice President of Business Services. “Our celebrations have helped raise awareness of the accomplishments and highlight the contributions of African Americans, past and present, and as we saw from our Early College students, the future.”

Dustin Long, Vice President of Information Technology at RCC, agrees. 

“Our culturally rich events for Black History Month have shown that there is much to recognize and celebrate,” stated Long. “This month has been a great opportunity for faculty, staff, and students at Robeson Community College to come together as one.”

View photos of this event on Facebook.


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