Week’s End

Jan. 25, 2013 @ 04:54 PM

A new venture at Durham Technical and Community College is, sadly, a sign of the times.

This week, the college opened a “food pantry” on campus – to help out their students who are hurting.

“We realized that there is a lot of need close to home,” Sally Parlier, the school’s Americorps/Vista volunteer coordinator, told The Herald-Sun’s Neil Offen. “A lot of our students didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.”

The idea grew out of what was expected to be a one-time food drive last January, when the student senate’s MLK service project gave out 50 emergency food bags – in 15 minutes.

“You can’t engage students’ minds when their bodies aren’t nourished or when they’re distracted by the stress of not knowing where their next meal is coming from,” said Erin Riney, the community college’s service coordinator.

So the school’s community engagement staff and the student center have been soliciting donations, have collected almost 900 pounds of food. The collection will be ongoing, of course, to keep the pantry stocked, and donation bins are placed around campus.

The pantry will be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the Phillips Building.

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This year, Duke University is commemorating with several events the admission of the first African-American undergraduate students in late summer 1963.

Rev. William C. Turner, the keynote speaker at Duke’s Martin Luther King Service of Celebration at Duke Chapel Sunday, followed that first class shortly after to Duke. “Fifty years, 50 years. That’s a long time. Or is it?” asked Turner, now a professor at Duke Divinity School and pastor of Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church. “It’s long or short depending  on one’s lifetime.”

Turner’s generation is graying now, a lifetime having passed since those days when integration came belatedly to Duke’s undergraduate ranks.  A generation at college age today may dimly grasp, if they grasp at all, the era of the civil rights movement.

So we’re glad Duke is recalling those days – both notable because Duke finally integrated, painful because it had for so long been segregated.

Friday night, Duke had planned to honor those students and those who followed with a Nasher Museum of Art reception to kick off "Celebrating the Past, Charting the Future: Commemorating 50 Years of Black Students at Duke." Unfortunately, the weather cancelled the event.

Three of the first class – Wilhelmina “Mimi” Reuben-Cooke, Gene Kendall and Nathanial “Buddy” White Jr. were to be at the reception and have been on campus this week. The other two from that first group – Mary Mitchell Harris and Cassandra Smith Rush – have died.

To join in a small way in honoring them, we’re pleased to give the five this week’s Durham Grit Award.