The Morton Theatre will showcase a performance from the Popovich Pet Theatre on Tuesday, April 17. (Photo/Christopher Carson)

During the Michael L. Thurmond lecture on March 3, a former University of Georgia professor talked to the audience about how racism is persisting in modern times.

“Most people believe that America had arrived at a post-racial utopia after electing its first black President in 2008,” Dr. Derrick Alridge said. “For me the events of Aug. 11 and 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, were a stark reminder of the persistence of racism in the 21st century. Friday, Aug. 11 started out as a normal day … but within hours I felt I had stepped back into the Jim Crow era.”

Within this speech he touched on the persistence of racism, how to engage in communities to help combat racist violence and the importance of growing the younger generations to encompass the dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of in his lifetime.

This lecture was titled "Martin Luther King - 50 Years Later: Chaos or Community?" and was a part of the Athens Area Black History Bowl Committee lecture series and black history celebration at the Morton Theatre. The event featured performances from Athens area students and talents.

Alridge is currently a professor at the University of Viriginia and said Dr. King would be disappointed to see racist violence persist 50 years later. 

"We can become engaged in our communities. We can do small things. Mentor a child, challenge racism and homophobia, sexism and nativism around us, and we can speak out against all forms of injustice."

- Dr. Derrick P. Alridge, former UGA professor 

“Charlottesville would have been all too familiar to Dr. King,” Alridge said. “He would have been disappointed to see the active role racism continues to play in our country, but he would have also encouraged us to challenge it at every turn."

Alridge went on to say that King would have told the community to seek out the reasons why people embrace racism and racist ideologies. King would have encouraged the community to reach out to those individuals because that is what King tried to do in his lifetime, Alridge said.

"We can become engaged in our communities. We can do small things. Mentor a child, challenge racism and homophobia, sexism and nativism around us, and we can speak out against all forms of injustice," Alridge said.

At the conclusion of Alridge’s remarks, Patricia Barron and Joesph Lumpkin were honored. In 2001, Barron became the first black female judge in Athens. Since 2002, Barron has been the chief magistrate court judge in Athens-Clarke County.

In 1997, Lumpkin became Athens first black police chief. He held this position for nearly 18 years and also served as chief of police in other cities such as Savannah, Albany and Taccoa. He is currently public safety director for Dekalb County. While accepting his reward, Lumpkin reflected on the changes in Athens and also praised Judge Barron.

“I love Athens and this community that produced me,” Lumpkin said. “I can remember as a child [driving by other schools] on the way to school. We as the Athens community have come a long way."

A reception was held at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. This event was sponsored by individuals and organizations including Mayor Nancy Denson, Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, Athens Land Trust, Taylor Pass for Athens-Clarke County Commission District 2 and Chalis Montgomery for Congress.

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