FMU celebrates Black Heritage Month:Speaker recognizes accomplishments of African-Americans


Photo by: Dani Isgett

The Praise in Motion Dance Ministry of FMU open for Florence School District One Superintendent Dr. Randy Bridges at the Black Heritage Month Celebration.

The Multicultural Affairs Department and the Multicultural Advisory Board (MAB) held the annual FMU Black Heritage Month Celebration on Feb. 2 in Chapman Auditorium.

Junior pre-nursing major Morgan Peoples and FMU’s Praise in Motion Dance Ministry performed. After these musical performances, the keynote speaker, Superintendent of Florence School District One, Dr. Randy Bridges, spoke.

Dr. Bridges has been the superintendent of different school districts, and has been an educator for more than 35 years. He’s held many different positions, including teacher, coach and principal of middle and high schools in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Florence County and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee region. He has implemented 15 new programs in Florence schools. During his years as an educator, schools have seen higher graduation rates, reduced dropout rates and an increase in SAT scores by 33 points.

Bridges spoke about his experiences with racial tensions and segregation. He also spoke about how far the country has come in regards to racial discrimination, but there is still more to be done to end this issue entirely. He titled his speech “Rise Up and be the Change You Wish to See.” As he spoke to students, he also presented a timeline of different events in history. He began his speech by talking about a few experiences of his own and about certain people that he had met over the years.

One person he spoke of was Ivy Smith, a Georgia State University (GSU) graduate. He spoke of her struggle to finish school while raising children.

Smith said to achieve a dream, one must be willing to put in time and work towards the goal. By the same token, America must work hard as a nation to get past racial discrimination and past unequal experiences.

Bridges’ Civil Rights timeline of events ranged from 1960 to 2009. He said that some would consider these times the “Good Ol’ Days,” but others would call them the “Bad Ol’ Days.” Bridges just called them “The Old Days.”

He recognized the oppression and the accomplishments of African Americans in the country. Some of the events he mentioned were the “Brown vs. the Board of Education” Supreme Court case in 1954, Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, and the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

He also mentioned two similar events in history that almost seemed to have happened in the same way but were still very much different. On Nov. 14, 1960, officers escorted a young African American girl by the name of Ruby Bridges to school. She was the first African American child to attend an all-white elementary school in Louisiana, and 49 years later, in 2009, officers escorted another African American child to school.

This time, they were escorting Sasha Obama, the daughter of the recent former President Barack Obama. Slowly but surely the U.S. has worked to diminish racial discrimination.

After closing remarks, Bridges gave his insight on what he believes will be in store for future students in Florence School District One.

“I think in the next 10 years, technology is going to play an even bigger role in the way that kids learn and how they’re engaged in the classroom,” Bridges said. “We’re making some steps in that direction now in the Florence school district. I think by leaps and bounds we’ll be into that. We’ll have great facilities because we’re building schools as we go.”