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Updated 5:30 PM February 1, 2008




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Film looks at University experiences with civil rights

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As the Civil Rights Movement grew during the late 1960s, the University found itself in the mix.

"Looking Forward through Looking Back," a short documentary produced by the Business and Finance Diversity Committee, offers insight into how the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of equality affected the lives of nine current and retired U-M employees who were on campus in that volatile time. The film was presented before the keynote presentation of "An Afternoon with Martin and Langston," featuring actors Ben Vereen and Felix Justice, as part of the 22nd annual MLK symposium.

Tim Slottow, executive vice president and chief financial officer, introduced the documentary, which he described as a form of "time travel" that allowed viewers to reflect upon past experiences and challenges and use them to move forward.

In the film, Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, recalls her involvement as a student in the Black Action Movement, including a sit-in at the LSA building.

Jim Toy, diversity coordinator at the Office of Institutional Equity, talks about taking part in a picket demonstration outside Angell Hall to protest the lack of black students on campus. He also speaks of marching in a Detroit parade led by King.

The film, which uses archival imagery, also highlights U-M's involvement in the modern women's rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality movements.

"If I was going to say one thing, which will quickly become two things," Toy says, smiling, "Carry the dream forward. Live the dream."

Additional documentary interviewees include: Phillip J. Bowman, director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity; Carole Dubritsky, associate director and Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator with Human Resources; Jan Eckert, unit liaison coordinator, Michigan Administrative Information System; Henry Johnson, vice president for student services (retired); Valener Perry, assistant dean for student services, School of Pharmacy; Carol Stafford, risk management/work connections claims clerk; and Jim Thiry, assistant vice president for human resources.

"Looking Forward through Looking Back" will be available online later this month.

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