“Risking Everything” brings the Civil Rights movement to campus and community

Traveling exhibit and related events show significance of Civil Rights


Photo by Elizabeth Gosling

Greg Kocken planned a bulk of the “Risking Everything” exhibit and events, and wants “to learn, experience and engage.”

Story by Elizabeth Gosling, Staff Writer

Living in a society where history continues to repeats itself, the McIntyre Library decided to give the community an inside look with a different perspective.

Today, many groups of people still search for acceptance. When children come out to their parents for being homosexual, they can face rejection from their family, civil rights activist Jack Junker said.

Eau Claire has the opportunity to connect past history to present culture, as Eau Claire hosts the “Risking Everything” program.

“Risking Everything” is a traveling exhibit coming to Eau Claire and will be housed in the McIntyre Library during October.

Being more than an exhibit; an array of events are planned for the month. The exhibit addresses the Civil Rights movement in a different aspect than history books because it involves first-hand experiences from activists during the Civil Rights movement.

Guests such as Joanne Bland, Freedom Riders and participants from the 1964 Freedom Summer will share personal experiences, and additional programs will be held with the goal of keeping the memory of the Civil Rights movement alive.

During the summer of 1964, African Americans faced challenges with the Voter Registration Act. That summer has been referred to as the Freedom Summer. These memories aren’t going to be around much longer, Head Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist Greg Kocken said.

Reflecting on the community, Kocken said he would like to make direct and indirect impressions through “Risking Everything.”

“This helps to strengthen the university community by demonstrating who we are,” said Kocken. “We have a role to play.”

He also said he wants to be able to connect with the students through the programs offered throughout October.

“This is a great opportunity for our campus and community,” Kocken said.


Exhibit and Programming

For many, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind when they think of the civil rights movement. They aren’t the only ones, Kocken said.

“We don’t think of the hundreds among thousands of ordinary people who made a big difference,” he said. “This is a conversation that has to be continued.”

Programs offered are free and open to the public.

The “Risking Everything” effort was made possible with multiple faculty members involved and a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

Faculty members involved include Professors Jan Larson, B.J. Hollars, Ryan Jones, Robert Gough, Student Affairs Executive Director of Diversity and Inclusion Jodi Thesing-Ritter and Kocken.

Each of them will take part in the activities planned for October. The programs kick off with the “Risking Everything” opening reception on Oct. 5. The exhibit itself was made by the Wisconsin Historical Society, and during the reception, Curator Michael Edmonds will describe the making of the program.

“Risking Everything” is a small piece from the Civil Rights Pilgrimage that is being brought to Eau Claire,” Kocken said.

Students will not have another opportunity to experience something like this, he said.

Junker participated and led the Civil Rights Pilgrimage for the past two years. Going on the pilgrimage, he was asked, “what would you get on the bus for? Would you be that one person that would stand up out of 100 people for something you believed in? Would you die for your beliefs?”

“People think that Civil Rights is over, but it’s not,” Junker said. “The Civil Rights movement can’t happen without people.”

Many of the programs involve different media. These stories from the Civil Rights movement are brought to life in forms of speeches, photography, film, song and readings. Multimedia is used to capture the atmosphere of the movement throughout the program

“As a campus, we talk a lot about equality issues that we follow through with, they are not just talking points,” Kocken said. “Equality issues are still living among us.”

“Risking Everything” will be in room 2022 in McIntyre Library until Oct. 25. On Oct. 27, it will move to the Chippewa Valley Museum until Oct. 30.