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AREA COLLEGE SENIORS PROTEST TO OPEN GREEN SB ORO LANDMARK By Melissa Kansky While most college seniors are concerned with their future, a handful of local university students are striving to preserve the past. After the construction site of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum sat neglected for more than 16 years, the efforts of about 100 local college students fueled acknowledgement of the historic landmark, which will now open in February 2010. Prior to the museum's existence, the building housed the diner where four African-American college students staged a sit-in at the all-white counter in 1960. Through flash mobs, art, the creation of a documentary and a $2 benefit concert, students from various Greensboro colleges educated residents and raised money to honor the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. "Our goal is to educate first and fundraise second," said Zim Ugochukwu, a senior at UNC Greensboro and the founder of the mission. All projects in relation to Ignite Greensboro aim to cultivate awareness of Greensboro's relationship to the Civil Rights Movement. During a flash mob, all those involved freeze while holding some symbol of education or teaching. Some participants hold textbooks while others clasp paintbrushes. "(The flash mobs) serve to highlight cultural conformity of students who refuse to explore outside their campus," Ugochukwu said. The Black Marker Project, part of the Ignite Greensboro campaign, also promotes the significance of knowledge. The project asks citizens of all ages and creeds what
knowledge and ownership represent. Individuals use markers to write on the white board and pose for a picture with their personal definition of knowledge and ownership. "This project is meant to place visual notions on personal ideologies," according to the group's Web site. "One step toward activism and advocacy is learning about what's in the community," Ugochukwu said. While flash mobs and The Black Marker Project encourage residents to take responsibility and understand the history of the community, the creation of the Oral History Documentary further serves to educate the public about the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in respect to Greensboro. "If you go to downtown Greensboro and drive around, you see this museum, and you see this big picture of four guys from your textbook. A lot of students don't know of the museum," Ugochukwu said. The documentary attempts to combat the public's ignorance of community landmarks and showcase significant strides made by the Civil Rights Movement. The $2 benefit concert also maintains the theme of education and responsibility. The concert highlights artists who dedicated their work to activism and community involvement, and whose music emphasizes the consequences if people are not involved, Ugochukwu said. While Ugochukwu said fundraising is second to education, fundraising and education are often intertwined. She said the money will go to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum as an intergenerational gift.
The International Civil Rights Center and Museum features the disputed diner countertop as the highlight of the museum, while other exhibits, videos and music engage viewers and immerse them in the decade's turmoil. Aside from the museum, the group also hopes to use some of the money to bring in speakers to talk about their experiences in the Civil Rights Movement, but will use most of the money for students in elementary school all the way up to college. Ugochukwu estimates that if half the college students in Greensboro donate $2 to the campaign, these goals can be accomplished. Still, she said she measures Ignite Greensboro's success based upon the public's awareness of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Ignite Greensboro exhibitions aim to further promote the group's plight. UNCG student and Ignite Greensboro training leader Shawanda Martin said she believes the exhibitions have been successful, despite her initial negativity. "I didn't expect as much (positive feedback) because I didn't expect the community to take a student-led movement seriously," Martin said. Martin said she also worried about recruiting students to collectively organize the exhibitions, but since the beginning of the project her views have changed. "I've seen progress as far as where we are as a student-led organization," Martin said. "Our leadership within the organization has grown and more people recognize our name. It's been a good experience. The exhibitions have been great and we have gotten a lot of good feedback from the community."
Melissa Kansky * Elon University * 3657 Campus Box * Elon, NC 27244