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Dr. Crystal Chambers speaks about ideas and practices of freedom at BCCC's Celebration of the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Commemoration of the Juneteenth National Holiday.

Dr. Crystal Chambers Speaks at Juneteenth Celebration

In celebration of the new Juneteenth federal holiday, Beaufort County Community College held a luncheon on June 20 to bring together community members across Beaufort County. Dr. Crystal Chambers, JD, Professor of Educational Leadership at East Carolina spoke at the event. Dr. Chambers discussed the history of extending freedoms throughout the history of the United States. The luncheon also served as a commemoration of the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event had originally been planned for January but it was postponed due to a COVID-19 surge at the time.

The Celebration of the Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Commemoration of the Juneteenth National Holiday brought together elected officials, students, community members from churches, organizations, and educational institutions. Dr. Chambers lead the lecture similar to her classes, incorporating interactive elements into the speech. Audience members got to weigh in on their definitions of freedom. She discussed how love is key to expanding freedoms, and that small conversations are essential to bridging gaps between people from different groups. The event also featured music from the Cornerstone Family Worship Center Choir.

Dr. Crystal Chambers has expertise in law and policy in higher education, with a focus on race, gender, and intersectionality. Through her education policy expertise, she is adept at analyzing and addressing policy structures that reproduce systemic inequity in higher education. She is a 2018 Carnegie Fellow for her work on Rural Student College Choice and is a co-PI on THRIVE@ECU, an NSF ADVANCE Adaptation grant. Her most recent books are Law and Social Justice in Higher Education, part of the Core Concepts in Higher Education Series (Routledge, 2016) and African American Rural Education: College Experiences and Postsecondary Pathways (Emerald, 2020).

The college has held an Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration for four years, though 2021’s event was moved online while this year’s event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. College administrators made the decision to hold it in conjunction with the new Juneteenth national holiday.

Dr. Chambers questioned the myth that enslaved people were not aware of their emancipation, noting that often throughout history, people in power have been slow to extend freedoms which may exist in law, but not yet in practice. She noted that existing technologies such as the telegraph would have expedited such news and that enslaved people in the United States had heard about the Haitian Revolution which was led by enslaved people against the French Empire. Additionally, Union States such as Kentucky and Delaware were not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation, so they held onto the institution of slavery until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

In her talk, she looked at newer issues in civil rights, including anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic and the treatment of refugees and immigrants. During a question-and-answer session at the end, she emphasized her view that personal conversations helped to build the love required to extend freedom to more people.

BCCC is committed to equity and inclusion, which is a foundational element of our institutional mission. As an open-enrollment, public, community college, Beaufort works each day to provide educational opportunities designed to enhance economic and social mobility for the residents of our diverse service region. Its faculty and staff continue to teach content and engage students in a manner that emphasizes the basic rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a complex, pluralistic society.

The slogan of the college is “You Belong Here!” and “you” means everyone, regardless of race, gender, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. This is the college’s promise to its students, now and in perpetuity.