The Lee-Maryville Symposium invites participants to address the national issue of race
More than 50 educators, administrators, clergy and select students gathered together for a discussion on the topic of race at the Lee-Maryville Symposium on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6-7.
Each year a different theme is chosen and participants are invited to attend, listen to presenters and engage in discussion.
This year’s theme was race.
Meant to encourage a space for discussion, the symposium began at Maryville College in 2007 under the leadership of Dr. Ronald Wells.
For the second time, the symposium was held on Lee’s campus under the direction of Dr. Jason Ward, associate professor of history.
“Beginning next year it will simply be called the Lee Symposium,” Ward said.
Stepping into retirement, Dr. Wells will hand over the event to Lee's campus to carry on.
Days before this year’s symposium, “Having the Conversation about Race: People of Faith in College and Church,” Dr. Ward acknowledged the challenge of navigating such a sensitive national issue.
“This is a difficult topic; it’s uncomfortable,” Ward said. “I want us to really grapple with difficult issues and think about them even though we will not arrive at a conclusion or an answer.”
During the event participants were found mingling and sharing thoughts between sessions.
Dr. Mary McCampbell, associate professor of humanities and participant in planning the symposium, gave a prepared response to one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Alicia Jackson from Covenant College.
For McCampbell the impact of the symposium went much deeper than the academic component.
“Someone spoke last and she kind of told her story and was in tears about how much this is describing her experience,” McCampbell said. “This goes beyond just statistics. It’s about human pain and I think that was acknowledged.”
David Coats, a fifth-year senior majoring in history and one of only two Lee students invited to attend the event, offered his perspective on the importance of Lee's hosting a discussion on race.
“All of us as white southerners should realize maybe even if we aren’t necessarily responsible for oppression, we certainly descend from those who are,” Coats said. “Just because we haven’t enslaved people, we do need to pay attention to the fact that people are enslaved and living in the aftermath of that.”
Kori Weaver, a sophomore history major and assistant to Ward in planning and running the event, was grateful for the topic being addressed.
“I think it’s always important to talk about controversial issues because the only way they are going to be resolved, or somewhat fixed, is talking about it,” Weaver said. “If we don’t talk about it and we avoid it, then it just grows bigger and bigger, and we have more racial tension and more division. I think this event is important to create more unity.”
The event consisted of individuals from the immediate Cleveland community to parts of Florida and Michigan.
McCampbell expects each individual to leave different than how they came.
“I am hoping that everyone here will be really inspired and convicted,” said McCampbell. “To go to their institutions and really try to create open spaces for their students to talk about this and talk with other faculty. To really try to empower and lift up voices of those who are underrepresented. Voices of people of color.”