SMU celebrates human rights heroes and the anniversary of its Civil Rights Pilgrimage on Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jerry Mitchell and Joanne Bland
Civil rights icons Jerry Mitchell and Joanne Bland hold a conversation at SMU as part of the University’s 10th anniversary celebration of its Civil Rights Pilgrimage program. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.

SMU celebrates civil and human rights at two events on Thursday, April 10 – awarding the Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice Fellowship to a veteran of the civil rights movement and the William K. McElvaney Peace and Justice Award to an SMU student, as well as marking the 10th anniversary of the University’s annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage (CRP).

The CRP anniversary celebration begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater. The program, which is free and open to the public, will feature a conversation between civil rights activist and “Bloody Sunday” survivor Joanne Bland and Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell. Mitchell’s work has been instrumental in the cold-case convictions of men responsible for some of the most heinous crimes of the civil rights era, including the assassination of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers in 1963 and the firebombing death of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer in 1966.

Earlier in the day, Bland received the Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice Fellowship at an event hosted by SMU’s Office of the Chaplain. At the same ceremony, SMU student Melissa Maguire received the William K. McElvaney Peace and Justice Award.

Bland has been actively involved in the civil rights movement since 1961, when as an 8-year-old child she attended a voting rights meeting presided over by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. She joined other children and teenagers in the civil rights movement as a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. She was only 11 on March 7, 1965, when she was severely beaten and driven back across the Edmund Pettus Bridge by police determined to stop a group making a voting rights march from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery.

Bland is co-founder and director of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, and is well known to SMU civil rights pilgrims who meet with her as they travel across the south every spring to learn about the tragedies and triumphs of the American civil rights movement. An Army veteran, Bland has told her personal story at conferences and workshops across the country, including at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Melissa Maguire
Melissa Maguire

Melissa Maguire received the McElvaney Award for her personal commitment and leadership to the causes of human rights, human welfare and social justice. She was a student coordinator for the 2014 SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage, co-chaired the presentation of The Vagina Monologues in February by SMU’s Women’s Interest Network, and has travelled to Holocaust sites in Poland with SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program.

Maguire is an SMU senior majoring in English, Spanish and human rights with minors in women and gender studies, history and psychology. She is a member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, the Women’s Interest Network and Order of Omega. Upon graduation, Maguire plans to enter the non-profit sector.

Written by Denise Gee

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Chaplain’s Office presents 2012 Peace & Justice honors April 25

Rev. Bruce Buchanan, recipient of SMU's 2012 Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice FellowshipRev. Bruce Buchanan, associate pastor of community ministries in Dallas’ First Presbyterian Church, will receive SMU’s 2012 Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice Fellowship during an 11:30 a.m. lunch and reception Wednesday, April 25, in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom.

He will deliver the Cooper Fellowship Lecture, “The Art of Turning Corners,” at noon.

Rev. Buchanan is responsible for program and policy design and oversight for First Presbyterian’s downtown social ministries, including The Stewpot. He oversees the daily operation of the soup kitchen for the homeless, as well as the church’s community casework services and its year-round educational programs for inner-city children, including a college scholarship incentive program. He has overseen the development of a dental and a medical clinic, supported the creation of an arts program, and developed the annual Stewpot Talent Show.

His service to Dallas and North Texas includes work with The Homeless Consortium for the City of Dallas, the Texas Homeless Network, Interfaith Community Ministries Network, Dallas Area Service to the Homeless, and Shelter Ministries of Dallas.

Rev. Buchanan received a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary and B.A. degrees in history and political science from Wagner College, both in New York City.

SMU senior Shirin Tavakoli, recipient of the 2012 McElvaney Peace and Justice AwardSMU senior Shirin Tavakoli will receive the 2012 William K. McElvaney Peace and Justice Award during the event. Tavakoli, who majors in political science, international studies and human rights with a minor in history, helped establish a campus chapter of the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA evidence and reforming public policy to prevent future injustice. The Tower Center Undergraduate Research Fellow’s human rights work includes participation and leadership with the SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage and the University’s Amnesty International chapter.

The Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice Fellowship was founded in 1992 upon Cooper’s retirement as SMU Associate Chaplain. It was created with gifts from Cooper’s friends, co-workers in the chaplaincy, The Dallas Peace Center and Northaven United Methodist Church.

The William K. McElvaney Peace and Justice Award was established in 1993 by friends of McElvaney to honor his lifelong commitment to peace, justice and civil rights on the occasion of his retirement from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. The award recognizes the peace and justice work of one or more SMU students and provides a stipend to be used in the advancement of peace and justice activities.

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