Ambitious programming fulfills IHMEC mission
Laura Washington (right), columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, interviews Gwendolyn DuBose Rogers Sunday at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Rogers was one of the students taught and inspired by a Jewish professor at Talladega College.
Updated: May 3, 2011 1:42PM
The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center turns two years old next month, having opened during the same month designated as Genocide Awareness Month and on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
After two years, the museum and education facility continues to fulfill its mission, not only as a sacred place where memories and history are preserved but as a learning ground to try to educate and prevent future genocide.
Even the IHMEC's mission statement makes clear that one of its never-ending goals is to "foster the promotion of human rights and the elimination of genocide."
If you happened to visit the museum over the last week or so and taken in any of its special programs, you would notice the museum's ambitious reach in pursuit of this lofty goal.
Each of its recent programing in its own way emphasized the difference one person can have in making the world a better place.
Its current traveling exhibition, "Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow," tells the the little-known story of German-Jewish refugee scholars who were forced to leave their homeland by the Nazis and begin new lives at historically Black colleges in the American south.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington Sunday moderated a conversation with Gwendolyn DuBose Rogers, one of the students taught and inspired by a Jewish professor at Talladega College in Alabama.
Rogers went on to make a major impact on educating the youth in the Chicago area before she retired in 2001. She held a wide variety of positions including as a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools; a curriculum consultant to Head Start; the director of the Early Childhood Center at Walt Disney Magnet School; director of the education department of the Chicago Urban League; and director of the Department of Internal Affairs for the Chicago Park District. She retired in 2001.
A screening of the Pacific Street film, "From Swastika to Jim Crow," was also screened for the event and will air May 1 on WTTW television.
Days earlier, the facility held a kick-off event using funding from a recently-awarded $250,000 grant from Exelon Corporation.
The funding helps the museum establish an anti-bullying initiative, which began with a full-day workshop, "STAND UP! Youth Leadership Day."
More than 60 fifth- and sixth-graders participated in the event, which was tied to the IHMEC's Miller Family Youth Exhibition.
Museum tours and group activities helped develop the students' leadership skills and action plans to combat bullying in their schools and communities. Students heard from keynote speaker, Nadja Halibegovich, a survivor of the Bosnian war.
Halibegovich kept a diary during the war so she could chronicle her fear and uncertainty as well as her desire to bring hope to her community. After being wounded by shrapnel from a bombshell at age 14, she began hosting a radio program in Sarajevo. She shared music, poetry, and entries from her diary to inspire her fellow citizens and share her hope for peace.
The IHMEC is expanding its anti-bullying programming to include new resources and training for students, teachers, administrators and community organizations. One such resource is the "Steps to Respect Bullying Prevention Program," which teaches elementary students to recognize, refuse, and report bullying; be assertive; and build friendships. The program was developed by Committee for Children, a non-profit group with which the Museum has partnered to support programming in Illinois schools.
The Anti-Bullying Initiative will continue with "Summer Institutes for Educators," two intensive, week-long seminars illustrating age-appropriate resources and strategies for teaching the Holocaust, genocide and other related issues.
In the fall of 2011, the Museum is planning an anti-bullying forum, bringing together educators, thought leaders, community agencies, coalition leaders, law enforcement professionals, and health care and social workers for a working day focused on solution-based collaborations toward bullying prevention.
Only a week ago, the IHMEC hosted "Fighting For Darfur" by Rebecca Hamilton who played a key role in the international human rights movement surrounding the first genocide of the 21st Century.
Hamilton examined how individuals organized protest marches, lobbied government officials and raised funds in the belief that the outcry they created would force world powers to save millions of Darfur citizens still at risk.
Museum Executive Director Richard Hirschhaut said that these recent programs, while eclectic in some ways, also share "powerful messages" that are central to the mission of the museum.
Hamilton, he said, spoke compellingly about the need for a stronger anti-genocide citizen advocacy group; Halibegovich spoke from the heart as a child survivor in the war in Bosnia; and Washington and Dubose Rogers gave their audience a glimpse into the Jim Crow South and the powerful impact made on the lives of young African-Americans by refugee Jewish professors.
"During the span of one week," Hirschhaut said, "these programs beautifully illustrated the full palette of the mission of the Museum -- fighting intolerance, raising awareness and fostering the promotion of human rights."
The IHMEC at 9603 Woods Drive is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends.
For more information on upcoming events, access the website at www.ilholocaustmuseum.org or call (847) 967-4800.
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