January 25, 2022

Pulitzer Prize Winner and Creator of The 1619 Project Nikole Hannah-Jones Opens WCU’s Two-Day Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration

MLK 29th annualWCU continues its sesquicentennial year with a special free virtual event with Nikole Hannah-Jones, 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner and creator of The 1619 Project. This program in WCU’s Diversity Speaker Series begins a two-day campus commemoration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The University holds its events to honor Dr. King once the spring semester has begun so that the entire campus community can participate.

On Thursday, January 27, at 6 p.m. via Zoom, Hannah-Jones will discuss the history of education in America specifically as it pertains to people of color and how The 1619 Project and critical race theory have impacted it. The event is free and open to the public. Attendees must register in advance.

Developed as a long-form journalism endeavor by Hannah-Jones, writers from The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine, The 1619 Project “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” The first publication stemming from the project was in the August 2019 The New York Times Magazine to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the British colonies. The anthology The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story was published in November 2021.

Hannah-Jones, a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, has spent her career investigating racial inequality and injustice. In addition to the Pulitzer for The 1619 Project, her reporting has earned her a MacArthur Fellowship (Genius Grant), a Peabody Award, two George Polk Awards, and the National Magazine Award three times. Hannah-Jones also earned the John Chancellor Award for Distinguished Journalism and was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists and the Newswomen's Club of New York. In 2020 she was inducted into the Society of American Historians and in 2021 she was named a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She also serves as the Knight Chair of Race and Journalism at Howard University, where she is founding the Center for Journalism & Democracy. In 2016, Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, which seeks to increase the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a master of arts in mass communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her bachelor’s degree in history and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame.

1619 ProjectThe live Zoom presentation with Hannah-Jones is sponsored by The Society (formerly the WCU Frederick Douglass Society) and the 150th Anniversary Diversity Speaker Series, coordinated through the University Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This year’s theme for the Diversity Speaker Series is “Conversations to Shape a More Inclusive Future.”

The second event in this year’s commemoration for Dr. King is the annual WCU Martin Luther King, Jr., celebration on Friday, Jan. 28. This online program will be offered free to the public as well as to the campus community, with ceremonies beginning at 10 a.m.

The event celebrates Dr. King’s life and legacy through images, spoken word, performances, and music with the WCU Gospel Choir, and honors WCU alumni whose professional lives and vocational activities have reflected Dr. King’s ideals. This year, the Drum Major for Justice honoree is Katherine Norris ’88 (see bio below).

The title Drum Major for Justice is taken from a sermon Dr. King delivered two months before his assassination on April 4, 1968. In that sermon, Dr. King spoke about his life and how he wanted to be remembered: “If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, … if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.”

Register here by Thursday, January 27, to receive an email with a link to the live event.

2022 Drum Major for Justice

Katherine Norris ’88

drum major for justice katherine norrisKatherine Norris is chair of curriculum and instruction at Howard University. From 2007 to August 2021, she was a WCU professor of early and middle grades education and special assistant to the dean of the College of Education and Social Work. She earned her bachelor of science in education at WCU, her master’s at St. Joseph's University, and her doctorate at Temple University.

Norris was one of the founders of WCU’s Community Immersive Semester for Educators (CISE) program. Grounded in the precepts of the community-engaged teacher preparation paradigm and informed by collaboration with teacher-educator colleagues from Ball State University, CISE offers WCU students in the early grades preparation program access to a nationally recognized, evidence-based model for developing the knowledge, disposition, and skills for working with racially and socioeconomically diverse children and families in historically marginalized communities. Sophomore and junior students participate in a full semester of required coursework offered in a fully immersive, integrated manner in partnership with Add B. Anderson School, a School District of Philadelphia public school located in the Cobbs Creek community in West Philadelphia. WCU students spend three full days a week onsite, working alongside Anderson faculty, staff, and administrators, as well as WCU faculty members. Additionally, all CISE students participate in a community mentoring component of the model, in which they spend time with Cobbs Creek and Anderson School families and community elders, learning from their mentors about the wisdom, values, and strengths of their community.

At West Chester University, Norris was also a faculty mentor and served on the board of the Frederick Douglass Institute where she worked closely with area elementary schools carrying out community research projects.

Norris taught for the Philadelphia Public School System for more than 18 years. She also taught college study skills at LaSalle University and multicultural children’s literature at Richard Stockton College in New Jersey. In addition, she was a part-time early intervention special instructor and a certified PA Keys PQAS (Pennsylvania Quality Assurance System) instructor in Pennsylvania for parent education workshops and teacher professional development. She has published in Multicultural Education, Teaching Young Children, and Issues in Teacher Education.

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