Monday, October 27, 2008

Alive & Well

Current Concerns and Initiatives of the Highlander Center

On Sunday, October 26th the Russell Library hosted, “The South and Appalachia – Linking to the World: The Current Concerns and Initiatives of the Highlander Research and Education Center,” at the Athens-Clarke County Public Library. This event, the fifth in the Weaving the Threads of Justice program series, reflected on Highlander’s legacy of social activism and examined the Center’s most recent projects.

Guest speaker Susan Williams, coordinator of Highlander’s Education Team as well as the Highlander Library and Resource Center, began the program with a custom from the institution itself – asking everyone in the audience to introduce themselves to the group. The initial exercise not only loosened the crowd up but also provided an interesting snapshot of the variety of people in the Athens area who gathered to learn more about strategies and approaches for effective activism and community empowerment employed at the Highlander Center. After introductions, Williams showed a short film, “Weaving Threads of Justice: Highlander Center at 75” – a look at where Highlander is now, produced in celebration of the Center’s 75th anniversary in 2007. The film interleaves footage of the huge crowds at the Center’s grounds for the anniversary celebration with interviews with individuals sharing the stories of how they came to Highlander and the ways that this place has influenced their paths in activism and community engagement.

Following the film Williams went on to tell the audience about the most recent developments at the Center, including the proposed acquisition of an apple orchard on neighboring property. Highlander is exploring ways to incorporate the orchard into the workshops and programs they offer. Williams noted that far too many people have never picked an apple or even seen one growing on the tree, so this orchard will be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the land. She opened the floor up to questions and used audience commentary as starting points for new areas of discussion: How can you make an activist group sustainable? How does a movement attract younger generations committed to the cause? How does a non-profit group build a donor base? In a short time, Williams was able to share just a few secrets of the long lasting success of this incredible institution.

In addition to the regular snacks and coffee offered at the reception, audience members were treated to handpicked apples from Highlander’s orchard! Audience members mingled till nearly 5:15 – a sign that a good time was had by all!

Time has flown by this fall – and our last program in the Weaving the Threads series is nearly upon us! Please join us at the Russell Library on Sunday, November 16th from 2-5pm for “Reflections on Songs, Actions, and Social Justice: Film, Lecture, and Music from Guy & Candi Carawan.” In true Highlander fashion, we will have music, film, discussion…and of course food, for what is sure to be a fantastic closing event. The exhibit gallery will be open to the public during this event. For more information please visit: or call (706) 542-5788.

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