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Living the dream 50 years later

If you are a student in the Lofts or Freshman Hall and looked down from your window on Wednesday night, you would have seen two things: a diverse group of students marching down Edgewood Avenue together, and this same group stopping in front of Greek Housing to hold hands and sing “We Shall Overcome” in unity.

In light of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech in Washington D.C., Georgia State’s Phi Beta Sigma fraternity sponsored an event alongside the Kappa Sigma Fraternity to commemorate Atlanta’s revolutionary civil rights leader.

Joshua Fowler, a sophomore and a member of Phi Beta Sigma, explained the importance of the event.

“This event is showing how 50 years later, Phi Beta Sigma a historically black fraternity, can partner with Kappa Sigma, a white fraternity, to throw programs together. We live in a Greek housing community with white fraternities and sororities where 50 years ago this was unheard of. This is just showing the progress that America has made with civil rights,” Fowler said.

The event, titled “Cocktails and Conversations,” started with a clip from the PBS documentary Freedom Riders, where everyone watched firsthand accounts of survivors traveling through a town in Alabama on the greyhound bus.

After the clip, Christian Hill, intern at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, introduced the panelists for discussion.

In attendance was Dr. Doris Derby, founder and director of Georgia State’s Office of African American Student Services and Programs, Bill Stanley, a retired executive from Clorox, a Deacon of Friendship Baptist Church.

For almost two hours all three panelists answered questions from Hill as well as questions from those sitting in the audience.

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Dr. Derby and Bill Stanley were able to give personal experiences of racism not only in their communities, but also in the work force, where it has often gone unnoticed.

He explained how he helped turn an event then shunned upon by millions into a national holiday.

“Back then Clorox didn’t take Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a real holiday but instead as a floating holiday.” Stanley said.

Throughout the program, the audience was split into groups full or races that would have never mixed fifty years ago: Blacks and whites under the Georgia State flag.

Audience members stood up and told their sides of racism, each with a particular theme in mind. Sophomore Kappa Sigma member Alexis Smith talked about being an African American male in a predominantly white fraternity.

“As an African American in a white fraternity, people would think that they are all racist and whatnot, but actually they are all very accepting. It’s more of like a culture than a brotherly bond than anything else,” Smith said.

Alpha Xi Delta and Emory University’s Lambda Theta Alpha were among the sororities and fraternities at the event supporting not only Phi Beta Sigma and Kappa Sigma, but also Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for equality.

Once the event was over, 11 Alive News, which was also covering the event, was able to film everyone marching together as well as singing and displaying the change the country has triumphed through in the last 50 years.