With “All Deliberate Speed” on Exhibit at the YMI Cultural Center

Me2We students from Asheville High and Asheville Middle met at the YMI Cultural Center for leadership training on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Jan. 21) 2013.  Photo: Deborah Miles

Me2We students from Asheville High and Asheville Middle met at the YMI Cultural Center for leadership training on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Jan. 21) 2013. Photo: Deborah Miles

The YMI Cultural Center is hosting “With All Deliberate Speed: Desegregation in Buncombe County” Feb. 1-28 as part of the observance of Black History Month. Through interviews with residents and research in archives, UNC Asheville students documented the ways citizens exercised their rights and responsibilities to put an end to Jim Crow Segregation from 1953 to the present. The YMI will be open Mon.-Fri., 10:00a.m.-3:30p.m. and at other times by reservation. The exhibit was initially created in 2005 by the Center for Diversity Education, UNC Asheville, with funding from the NC Civic Education Consortium and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Four UNC Asheville students, Jamal Mullen, Paige Shy, Klanesha Thomas, and Kendra Sylver, were involved in the original research for the exhibit. At the time of the first exhibition, Shy, who worked on the project as part of an undergraduate research grant, stated:

“Being involved in this research has been an enlightening process as it allowed me to see a side of Asheville that is hidden. My interest was piqued when I began to talk to black Asheville and hear their different stories and experiences dealing with race relations. I had no idea that the heritage of the African American community was so deeply embedded in the school system. They relied on the elders and the communal system more than we do today to get through those hard times. Those hard times are still here, but we lack the togetherness to help us get through it. For me, this presentation is geared to helping black Asheville see aspects of community that were lost and can be documented.”

Thomas, a senior at the time, said, “I have experienced an extended range of emotions. For instance, during the first memory circle at the Delta House, I was informed about how the only black high school in the region, Stephens-Lee, had been demolished. After the memory circle I went to the property, [now] a parking lot, and I was consumed with rage. Conversely, the opportunity to interact with revolutionaries James (BoBo) and Barbara Ferguson, also Marvin Chambers, was phenomenal. Not only was I inspired, but I was also empowered with their words of wisdom, struggle and perseverance.”

“With All Deliberate Speed” features the work of high school students who systematically desegregated lunch counters, movie theatres, parks, businesses, universities, and much more. A central time period of the exhibit features the work of ASCORE from 1960 to 1965.With the 50th anniversaries of the accomplishments of the ASCORE students at hand, the work continues to document the problem-solving that ASCORE members employed. In addition to documenting the work of ASCORE and the long-term impact of early civic engagement on members’ career choices, the Center for Diversity Education is working with local organizations to build youth leadership with students at Asheville Middle School and Asheville High School.

In partnership with City of Asheville Youth Leadership Association, In Real Life Afterschool, I Have a Dream Youth, and AVID Summer Bridge, Me2We works with 90 students to encourage them to engage in contemporary civic challenges of their choosing. With support from The Community Foundation of WNC and AT&T, the students meet throughout the year. On MLK Day, the students participated in the Peace March and later convened at the YMI to attend student led workshops aimed at building civic engagement and school success. Future activities include the second annual summer youth leadership convocation at UNC Asheville.

As part of the exhibit programming, on Mon., Feb. 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m., representatives from ASCORE and Me2We will provide discussion and dialogue on “Race Relations in Asheville – Then and Now.” The discussion is under the umbrella of the YMI “Taking Issue Forums” which are held quarterly.  The forums target topics relevant to the community and are free to the public. In July 2013, the YMI will celebrate 120 years of existence as an institution embracing historic and contemporary cultural arts awareness through exhibits, performances, and programs.

For more information about the Center for Diversity Education, contact director Deborah Miles at
(828) 232-5024 or by email at dmiles@unca.edu.

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