The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Civil Rights activisit lives through past, works for better future

“What are you going to do about it, boy?” she said. “The time is now, if you want to make a change for the better, right now is the time to show the next generation you can be colorblind and still succeed in this world.”

That, among many other topics is exactly what Joanne Bland will be speaking to UW-Eau Claire students about when she steps up to the podium Feb. 11 in Schofield Auditorium.

Bland played a role in the Civil Rights Movement and said she will be talking to the students about her personal story, along with what this generation of young people can do to further extend the battle against prejudice, before opening up for questions from the audience.

“I always look forward to what the young people around the country will ask me,” Bland said. “They never disappoint.”

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Bland was arrested at the age of eleven during demonstrations for the Civil Rights Movement, something that explains her character and
resonates with the people’s lives that she has touched.

Civil Rights Pilgrimage Coordinator senior Corrin Turkowitch first met Bland during her time on the CRP and said that Bland is an unbelievably strong, unforgettable woman.

“She provides an extremely strong example of courage and bravery, and at such a young age too,” Turkowitch said. “She grew up to be a woman that is meeting with the President (of the United States), and she’s leading the marches and she’s the former founder of a museum. It’s unbelievable.”

Bland helps out her community in Selma, Ala. and is a former Director of the National Voting Rights Museum in the same city. She has built a reputation of caring for her community immensely, something that Turkowitch could feel by seeing her work in Selma.

“The most inspiring thing from a woman’s perspective is that she takes care of her community,” Turkowitch said. “Even though she has the traits of bravery and courage, she takes care of her family, she’s in Selma and taking care of the place she loves most.”

One of the main focuses of her message to faculty and students when she comes to campus Feb. 11 will be that the Civil Rights fight is not over. She said one of the most eye-opening experiences in her life is when the 44th president of the United States was elected by this country.

“It really hit home when Barack Obama was elected,” Bland said. “I had been doing what I do for so long and it just finally hit me that America has changed. I was ecstatic. It had changed that this country once never trusted a black man, now we’re led by a black man.”

Bland said despite the new elected leader, she still sees hate by members of government, using derogatory terms against the leader of the free world and it reminds her that America still has work to do.

Senior Spanish major Lacey Struensee also met Bland on her experience with the CRP and said that she really took to heart what Bland told her about not giving up the fight.

“A lot of her focus now is not about the history and the past, but the future,” Struensee said. “It’s not a done deal; it’s not over. She focuses in on what we can do now to further the acceptance and how we can go about doing it.”

Struensee also said she will “most definitely” be going to see Bland when she comes to town and encourages everyone else that can, to come hear a woman who has been through
everything imaginable and hear what history sounds like.

Bland said she was honored to be able to take the stage in Eau Claire for the second consecutive year and looks forward to her lectures, that are free of charge to the general public.

“You know, it’s one thing to study the Civil Rights Movement, but to talk to somebody who was actually there, history comes alive,” Bland said. “You can’t search for my sort of wisdom in the pages of a book.”

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Civil Rights activisit lives through past, works for better future