“Social Change at the Margins” features CEO and educator Alana Simmons-Grant

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Center for Leadership and Social Change and the Sisters of Charity P.L.A.C.E. Fellows held “Social Change at the Margins” on February 19 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Spears Concert Hall.

Alana Simmons-Grant, CEO and founder of the Hate Won’t Win Movement, Inc. was the featured guest speaker. Professor Kara Simmons facilitated the dialogue.

The series is a continuation of Spears Table Talks from the previous academic year. They have discussed topics such as sexual assault, poverty. This time, Professor Kara Simmons wanted to focus on race relations in honor of Black History Month.

Alana Simmons-Grant was a middle school music educator in Virginia. On June 17, 2015, the day before the last day of school, she was called and notified of her grandfather being shot in Emanuel A.M.E. Church. Simmons-Grant traveled to South Carolina to be with her relatives.

She recalled contradictory headlines calling the shooting an attempt to start a “race war,” and claims it was rooted in the debate regarding the Confederate flag then still hanging at the state capital. At first, Simmons-Grant was wary of situation. However, she then saw an opportunity to make social change. Simmons-Grant later founded the Hate Won’t Win Movement Inc., specifically to honor the victims of the Charleston Nine shooting, but it has since extended to all victims of hate crimes.

Maddie Anderson Cooper (nee Johnson), a retired educator and assistant principal, was a surprise guest speaker, invited by Professor Kara Simmons. She is an Orangeburg native who attended South Carolina. State University in 1959. She later moved to New York state where she served as an educator for 33 years.

Anderson introduced herself by recalling her first year in college. In March 1960, she participated in a march to a lunch counter sit-in. She and her classmates were met with fire engines, policemen with dogs and direct sprays from fire hoses. The number of students was so large they were put into a barnyard before being arraigned by two lawyers.

Anderson’s story was powerful and left the room silenced for a few moments. Professor Kara Simmons states, “I just wanted to talk about these things because as a student I experienced racial issues and injustices. We weren’t talking about it.”

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