Frederick Douglass festival coming to library

Rod Library will be hosting the


Rod Library will be hosting the "Power of Words" festival next week in honor of Douglass' 200th birth anniversary.


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Rod Library will be hosting the Frederick Douglass “Power of Words” festival from Sep. 18 to 22.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Douglass’ birth. According to “The Baltimore Sun,” President Trump declared Feb. 14, 2018 a national celebration for Douglass’s birthday. Douglass’ home state of Maryland celebrated the event with exhibits, speeches and even a tour through the city of Douglass’s life in Baltimore.

Celeste Bembry, the recruitment and retention coordinator at the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences (CHAS), wanted UNI to join in this national celebration of Douglass. Although the Feb. 14 date has well passed, this bicentennial year of Douglass’s birth calls for a time of remembrance.

“We want to join the rest of the nation,” Bembry said. “We need to be a part of a national agenda. I got busy, rallying collaborative entities.”

CHAS joined with Rod Library, the UNI Museum and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to bring the festival to life.   

“UNI is always visionary,” Bembry said. “That’s how we do things here on this campus. After consulting faculty and staff, I said, ‘Lets do something [. . .] to put UNI right in the mix of being visionary [and] forward thinking.”

The festival will include an array of exhibits from the UNI museum, student and faculty-led presentations and forums which Bembry hopes will create an open space for respectful discussions of difficult topics, as well as a time to break down barriers and assumptions.

Additionally, there will be performance slams at the Center for Multicultural Education. Topics at these events will deal with issues like DACA, immigration and the #MeToo movement, to name a few. There will also be discussion of the film, “Black Panther,” in order to address stereotypes of Africa as a primitive place.

A Wikipedia “edit-a-thon” will take place upstairs in the Rod Library, providing a chance for people to gather and write about underrepresented people of color on Wikipedia.

The library already has several displays up to advertise the event, such as cases and shelves with books, artifacts and videos about Douglass. More displays are yet to come to further advertise the event. Bembry hopes the displays in the library will spark excitement and curiosity, drawing people in for the festival.

“Our opinions matter. Our thoughts matter. We need to sit down and hear perspectives,” Bembry said.

The events on Friday will cater mainly to the UNI community and public, whereas Saturday will be a time for secondary schools, teachers and students to come and participate in the festival.

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