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April 22, 2009
Vol. 100, Issue 11

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Graduate student Danielle Richmond below image of Maya Angelou
(Photo: Jorge Gonzalez/Echo Staff Reporter)
Symposium honors women
Achievements in liberal arts

By Denique Prout
Echo Staff Reporter

She was an outspoken, thoughtful and loving civil rights worker with an enchanting smile.

Her dedication as a teacher and civil rights activist is well known.

Joycelyn D. McKissick, who died in 2005, will be honored by her youngest sister, Charmaine McKissick-Melton, at the College of Liberal Arts’ Annual Symposium.

This year’s event, taking place at the University Theater April 27-29, will focus on “Women's Contributions to the Humanities.”

Professors will give presentations on the roles of women in language, music and other aspects of the humanities.

The symposium is being celebrated with a series prints on the front windows of the Farrison-Newton Communication Building.

The prints, crafted by art students, depict well-known women throughout history, including Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison and others.

Marco Polo Hernández Cuevas, associate professor in Modern Foreign Languages, organized the symposium series.

Claudia Becker, a German professor in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages, will talk about German poets and their experiences living in the United States.

“Those voices are important because they capture a side of the American dream that has either not been expressed or listened to,” Becker said.

Spanish professor Reine Turcato will speak about how women can find their voices in a male-dominated society.

“It is through the use of language that women use in their writing that one can see their voice screaming to be heard,” Turcato said. “[The symposium] is an excellent opportunity for all to hear what it is that women are saying.”

Blues singers Bessie Smith and Alberta Hunter will be the focus of Lenora Zenzalai Helm’s presentation.
Joycelyn McKissick in the mid-1980s in Soul City, in Warren County, North Carolina. ( Photo: Courtesy of Charmaine McKissick-Melton)

Helm, a music professor, will sing Smith’s and Hunter’s music as well as one of her own songs.

“My program, ‘Well Behaved Women Don’t Make History,’ will feature excerpts about women in music whose business and entrepreneurial boldness and innovation paved the way for women in music decades later,” Helm said.

McKissick-Melton wanted to honor her sister’s role in fighting for equality for African Americans.

The oldest daughter of civil rights leader Floyd B. McKissick Sr., Jocelyn McKissick, at age 14, participated in the picketing of Royal Ice Cream in 1957, considered to be North Carolina’s first sit-in.

She was the first black female to attend and to graduate from Durham High School, her sister said.

She attended Spellman College before graduating from North Carolina College (now N. C. Central University), and received an M.A. in education from Harvard University in 1971.

As an educator, McKissick taught at several federal prisons and was a teacher and counselor at Kittrell Job Corps and at Vance-Granville Community College.

McKissick was one of the few female student leaders of the American civil rights movement.

She spent three days in jail after protesting segregation at a Howard Johnson’s and participated in numerous sit-ins and demonstrations.

As a member of the Freedom Riders, she was beaten and jailed while protesting in Mississippi and Alabama.

Her injuries left her unable to have children, her sister said.

McKissick-Melton believes her sister’s injuries were the cause of a double brain aneurysm in 1986.

She became her sister’s legal guardian before she died in 2005.

“She was brilliant, eccentric and an artist with lots of personal style,” McKissick-Melton said about her sister in her symposium submission.

“She was an original.”

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