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Civil rights activist JoAnne Bland.

The African-American Resource Center will hold its annual Harold Haskins Lecture Series featuring civil rights activist JoAnne Bland this Thursday.

The event will be held at Penn Hillel, starting at 5:00 p.m. and honors Harold Haskins, who passed away in August 2020. Haskins was an educator and mentor for Black students at Penn. The lecture series aims to bring in speakers that connect with Haskins’s professional and personal experience. 

JoAnne Bland is the co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, Alabama. She is also a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. In 1965, Bland was a victim of police violence during “Bloody Sunday," a march against segregation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.  

Bland is “a community activist, so she has that same spirit as Harold Haskins. It was important for us to have someone who can identify with that,” Associate Director of the AARC Darin Toliver said.

Jonathan Lamothe, a Wharton sophomore and AARC intern, explained that the center has always been a place of mentorship for him, creating a bridge between the University and the Philadelphia community. He will help show Bland and her daughter around the city this week.

Lamothe added the importance of having students hear the direct perspectives of civil rights leaders since most students do not fully empathize with or understand the movement.

“We understand the importance of having young people involved in civic engagement and movements that address social justice issues,” Toliver said. 

The lecture series is part of a larger initiative to honor Haskins spearheaded by The Black Alumni Society, which includes a research grant for graduate students, a fellowship at Makuu, and the renaming of the Du Bois College House multipurpose room. 

“[The series] was a great opportunity to honor someone who has given so much to this university, socially, academically, educationally, and to the students,” Toliver said. 

Toliver said that the AARC has worked with the local Philadelphia community to host events such as the documentary screening with Paul Robeson High School on gun violence. 

The AARC recently held the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Symposium on Social Change. Their newsletter The Grapevine provides information about future community service events facilitated by the AARC.