Hon. Shirley Chisholm keynote speaker for Martin Luther King Jr. celebration


Town of Fairfield proclaims Jan. 28 "Shirley Chisholm Day"

The Hon. Shirley Chisholm, the former New York Congresswoman and unrelenting fighter for racial equality, will be the keynote speaker when Fairfield University kicks off its three-day Martin Luther King Celebration on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 3 p.m. in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

Just prior to her talk on "Human and Civil Rights in a Conservative Environment," Ms. Chisholm will be presented with Fairfield University's LaFarge Award, named for Rev. John LaFarge, S.J., a Jesuit priest considered by many to be the foremost Catholic spokesman on race relations in America for more than 30 years, beginning in the mid 1920s. In addition, First Selectman Kenneth Flatto has declared Jan. 28 "Shirley Chisholm Day" in the Town of Fairfield in honor of her visit.

On Friday, Jan. 29, the University will host the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Workshop for local middle school students from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The students will hear presentations by faculty members regarding Dr. King's life and accomplishments and will then participate in discussion groups led by Fairfield University students. From 5 to 7 p.m. the Barone Campus Center will be transformed into a "multicultural marketplace," as vendors and community groups provide food, music, gifts, merchandise and entertainment throughout the lobby, lounge, fireplace visiting area and the Oak Room.

On Saturday, the final day of the observance, a closing ceremony at 6 p.m. will be followed by the AHANA Student Council Unity Ball. The event will feature a multicultural buffet along with entertainment, followed by a swing band with dancing to the music of the '50s and '60s, and a DJ for dancing to the music of the '90s.

Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to be elected to the Congress of the United States, was born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in 1924 to parents who had left Barbados during the famines of the 1920s. Long on discipline and strong on love, her parents overcame the depths of poverty to give their children college educations.

Ms. Chisholm's career in politics started in the early 1950s, in Brooklyn's boss-run Democratic clubhouses. Persistently challenging the inequities of the machine, she was regarded as a trouble-making maverick. With a dynamic will and unswerving belief that the needs of her people had to come before political expediency, she rose to New York State Assembly-woman in Albany and then to Representative in the U.S. Congress in 1968, a seat she held for 14 years until her retirement in 1972.

During her years in Congress, Ms. Chisholm was a staunch advocate for civil rights and women's liberation issues. She was an early member of the National Organization for Women and a co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus.

In 1972, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm made history by campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President, the first black woman to seek the nation's highest office. She remained in the race until the convention where she captured over 150 votes on the first ballot. She wrote a book about her experience entitled, "The Good Fight." An earlier book, "Unbought and Unbossed," her autobiography, took its title from the campaign slogan she used in her first race for Congress.

Former Congresswoman Chisholm has earned praise for her efforts on behalf of Black Colleges, compensatory education, minimum wage for domestics, Native Americans, Haitian refugees, migrant farm workers and the poor. She is the co-founder of the National Political Congress of Black Women and served as its chairwoman from its founding in 1984 until June, 1992.

A cum laude graduate of Brooklyn College, she received the master of arts degree and a professional diploma in educational supervision from Columbia University. She has been honored by 31 institutions with honorary doctoral degrees. Bilingual, she speaks and writes Spanish fluently. Ms. Chisholm was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1993.

The LaFarge medal, which Ms. Chisholm will receive, is named for Father LaFarge who founded the Catholic Interracial Council of New York in 1934, the most important Catholic civil rights organization in the pre-Brown era. His declaration in 1937 that racism is a sin and a heresy so impressed the Pope that he employed Fr. LaFarge to write an encyclical on the subject. Consistent with his work with interracial groups was Fr. LaFarge's work with groups promoting better interfaith relations, for which he received the World Brotherhood Award.

Tickets to the lecture will be $5 and will be available on Monday, Jan. 25 at the Quick Center Box Office, (203) 254-4010.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 15, 1999

Vol. 31, No. 148A