Reflections on Community-based Scholarship and Family Valuesby Dr. William Patterson on Apr 24, 2011
Editor's note: William Patterson is on staff at the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He grew up in the twin cities and received his PhD. from the University. He is the moderator of Illinois Public Media's Freedom Riders event April 28, 2011.
It’s a great feeling when you understand your own history and its legacy. There’s nothing like walking down the street and being hit with moments of remembrance such as seeing an indigenous space like a building that used to house the barbershop where you got your hair cut when you were a kid or the lot that now holds a new building in the same space that your father placed his dream in a barbecue restaurant. I have been so blessed over the years to be able to manifest moments of remembrance into legacy building scholarship.
When I think about the importance of understanding the legacy I inherited, I reflect on the essence of growing up with a great sense of family and a great sense of community. My family and the community of Champaign-Urbana always provided a safe space to play as a child, but also an opportunity to grow into an adult with a deep sense of the shared family values that build and maintain great communities. It’s those traditions that I believe the Freedom Riders got on the bus to maintain and preserve. They knew that African Americans’ sense of freedom and pursuit of happiness was not being realized and protected in the South. The Riders knew that in order for change to be realized it would take putting their own lives on the line to make a statement that the whole world would see.
I wonder what the Freedom Rider bus would look like today? What would drive people to get on the bus? This is why the essence of my scholarship concentrates on teaching young people in the African American community how to use media to connect with the legacies of the black lived experience.
It is my hope on Thursday night we’ll again create a space where students will be inspired to discover their communal legacies through conversations and documentation from a living reflection of self-identity.
It’s the love of my family and community that provided me with a strong sense of the need to educate myself to gain the ability to work with young people and provide them with the support to learn and appreciate the indigenous knowledge of the African American experience.
Won't you join us on Thursday to talk more about the legacy of the Freedom Rides and the work that remains?