MLK Series: Dr. Todd Allen brings a historical perspective

The fight to stop violence against the African-American community has been an ongoing battle since the beginning of time. It has recently taken a new, re-energized approach thanks to the creation of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

An international activist movement that campaigns against violence toward the African-American community, the Black Lives Matter organization was formed in 2013 as a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Treyvon Martin.

To spread the knowledge of the historical struggles of the African-American community while bringing to light the ideology of the BLM movement, Dr. Todd Allen was kind enough to make a guest appearance at Clarion University this past Monday, Feb. 8 in Hart Chapel to present his “Eyes Forward, Looking Back: Remembering the Civil Rights Movement” presentation.

For 23 years, Dr. Allen was employed at Geneva College as both an admissions counselor and assistant to the president for multicultural development. He also received a degree in Communication from Geneva in 1991, a master’s degree in rhetorical studies from the University of Akron in 1995 and finally a doctorate in rhetorical studies from Duquesne University in 2009. He is currently a professor of Communication Studies at Grove City College.

Allen is also the founder and director of the Common Ground Project, an organization located in Beaver Falls, Pa. that physically engages in history by traveling to the iconic Civil Rights Movement sites in the South, such as Selma, AL. and others.

Dr. Allen’s long list of academic and real life experiences professionally and personally connects him to the Civil Rights Movement, giving him the ability to tell the stories of the movement in such a genuine and passionate manner that completely entices his audience.

With a more intimate setting in Hart Chapel, it was easy to feel included during the event. He shed light on the importance of the history of the movement and how remembering events can positively influence today’s society.

“It’s the fact that we’re forgetting about it is what led us to the troubling state we’re in,” said Allen. Using a combination of visual slides while verbally giving background information, Allen helped the audience put faces to names while creating a personal connection of the movement’s activists and their many struggles.

The theme of his presentation revolved around the idea that ordinary people can do extraordinary things, such as Viola Liuzzo. Not only a white, middle-aged housewife and mother, Liuzzo was a Civil Rights activist who never received the credit she deserved, just like the many other activists Allen discussed.

Allen not only spoke of the many activists’ brave accomplishments and selfless contributions, but of how to make a change in today’s society.

“When you think history, you don’t always have to travel far from home,” Allen said. He urged that by examining past lessons learned and being aware of our own capabilities and duties as individuals, we can each make a difference.

As the presentation came to a close, students were eager to ask questions and get Allen’s perspective on matters. Junior political science major, Abby Blum took a lot away from this event.

“Dr. Allen gave me the opportunity to broaden my original way of thinking. He made me realize how much of an impact I can make if I just put my mind to something,” says Blum.

Allen left his audience inspired and in awe with his last piece of advice: “It’s not just about remembering names and dates, it’s about remembering the principles.”

Clarion was honored to host Allen for this event and hopes to have him visit in the near future.

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