MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Celebrations are in order for LeMoyne-Owen College.
The year of commemoration kicked off Friday and we were there to speak with students and administrators about what this milestone means.
Sometimes, we find inspiration in the most unexpected places. For Alex Wilks, it was on his school bus as a child.
“Teachers on our school bus were letting us know this is LeMoyne-Owen College. In school, I had some LeMoyne Owen alumni who were teachers. They always talked about LeMoyne-Owen and how powerful of an HBCU it is. I wanted to come here and leave my legacy as well,” said Alex Wilks, a LeMoyne-Owen College senior.
It's a legacy that now spans 160 years. On Friday, the college kicked off a year of commemoration in honor of turning 160.
“It makes me feel great, especially as an African-American male. Education is not something that’s pushed on us because when you think back in time … people pretty much kept us from being educated,” said Wilks.
That's a reality the college has lived and survived.
“Anytime you have longevity, that’s something to be celebrated. Anytime you have longevity against adversity, that’s a double reason to celebrate,” said Clarence Christian, LeMoyne-Owen College’s National Annual Fundraising Chair. “The college grew out of the social justice movement in America started in 1862.”
The college witnessed historic events from massacres and yellow fever to the Civil Rights movement.
“Despite all that, we’re still here,” said Dr. Christian. “To be able to survive adversity means you have remarkable resilience.”
That resilience has kept the nation’s fifth-oldest HBCU going and showed the value and importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“They understand what we have to go through as Black women and Black men,” said LeMoyne-Owen College senior Tamar Anderson.
“When you come to an HBCU, you feel the love and not only that, but you learn more about yourself,” said LeMoyne-Owen Student Government Association President Daebreon Leach.
“Not only do we try to provide the students with an education, but we build them with those social justice impulses, an impulse to go out and try to help change the world,” said Christian.
“One thing about us is building a tradition and not resting upon one. That’s what I’m going to continue to do,” said Wilks.