By ALEX WHITE | Staff Writer
On Thursday, Jan. 27, people of all different ethnicities and from all walks of life gathered in Clement Auditorium to celebrate a historic event on APSU’s campus where the African American Cultural Center’s 20th anniversary celebration would be held.
As people began to take their seats, they were greeted by the center’s present director Henderson Hill and welcomed by opening remarks from President Tim Hall. But the highlight of the night came when Alfred “A.J.” Stovall walked up to the podium and addressed the audience.
Stovall began to speak of the origins of black cultural centers as places of refuge and an oasis for black students.
The center at APSU was to be a place to discuss current issues, plan means of surviving academically and socially in the hostile environment and it was to be a place to relax and gather together.
In 1989, APSU students put together a manifesto to propose to the president of the university. Their manifesto proposed to protect and promote African American’s culture at APSU, improve African students’ self-esteem and educate the campus community from an Afrocentric view, serve as resource learning center for campus community and an atmosphere for exchange of knowledge of African American Culture
After the drafting of the students’ manifesto in April 1990, President Oscar Page and students came to a tentative agreement on construction of a black cultural center.
The APSU AACC paired academic activities because that was the only way to engage the learning process. Stovall also mentioned the students he worked with at the AACC. He told of students that were honest and friendly, most of whom are quite successful today.
After Stovall’s presentation, the stage welcomed the APSU ensemble “Voices of Praise” a music group called to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and the belief of the Christian faith.
After the voices fluttered from the auditorium, Wilbur N. Daniel Jr., son of Wilbur N. Daniel after the center’s namesake, graced the stage to speak on his father’s behalf.
Daniel was the first black student to enroll at the former Austin Peay State College when the institution was still an all-white school.
For the college, the end of segregation came in 1956 when Daniel applied to the graduate school and was admitted. He received a Master of Arts in Education in 1957.
As his son began to speak, a wave of enthusiasm swept over the audience. Daniel talked of his father’s role as an advocate of education and economy and his efforts to wipe out illiteracy.
Daniel Jr. asked the audience who was present at Daniel Sr. funeral, to which by no surprise many in the audience raised their hands, stood up to pay respects to the Daniel children.
While Daniel Jr. spoke, he was joined by his sister-in-law Katherine Daniel who spoke of the importance of education and how the AACC at APSU was aware of this.
In her words of confidence her voice resounded through the auditorium, “As long as we are learning, we are living.” With that, a round of applause sounded and the seats of Clement became vacant as all stood in honor to commemorate a historical figure in APSU history.
As the program concluded, Dean of Students, Greg Singleton said about the program, “It is always interesting to hear historical perspective to the university, students, staff and community.”
As the audience quickly gathered in the AACC to enjoy food and conversation, Hill commented on the evening’s events and the outcome of people, “You always wish for more.
“Students that were here though are able to hear history and hopefully that will have a ripple down effect, and they will go and tell others.”
When thinking back to what those students accomplished in the early ’90s, their progress and achievements have not been lost.
Stovall said, “Most people learn from TV about the black cultural centers, my job was to de-bunk the myths of the center and to have APSU realize what they had and what they have.”
As the evening ended, guests were left with thoughts of the struggle students endured in the fight for equality and of the achievements APSU’s AACC has made and its importance. TAS