June 25, 2024

Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Our country includes 62 million people of Hispanic heritage, the largest numerical minority in our country. Felicidades Hermanos y Hermanas!

It is also the 78th United Nations General Assembly, “Rebuilding Trust and Reigniting Global Solidarity.” Presidents Biden and Zelensky addressed the global body on the need to support Ukraine’s ongoing struggle for liberation from the Russian invasion of their country. President Zelensky also met with Congressional leadership in Washington.

In 1977 I attended 32nd UNGA. During my last year in law school, I was a legal research assistant in the Centre for Transnational Corporations, developing a code of conduct for companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. Jimmy Carter was president and Andrew Young was the U.S. Ambassador to the UN. They transformed U.S. policy toward apartheid from complacent to active resistance. In 1978 I spent a month as a special observer in South Africa. It was another 15 years before Nelson Mandela was elected president in the first democratically held elections. We stayed the course. Then as now the United States was on the right side of history.

Tip O’Neil said, “All politics is local.” We have been busy in Happy Valley. The Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literature held a fundraiser for Ukraine, a screening of the documentary “Rising Fury” to a packed State Theatre. Their insightful film showed the personal story of Ukrainian people struggling to maintain democracy from years before the invasion until last year. The filmmakers spoke and answered questions. Also at The State Theatre, the Schreyer Honors College hosted a lecture and book signing by world renowned scholar/philosopher Timothy Snyder. He discussed observations from his recent trip to Ukraine and his book, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.”

Penn State’s senior faculty mentors, Keith Gilyard, Jennifer Hamer and Jeanine Staples-Dixon, held their annual welcome back lunch. A scrumptious buffet was enjoyed by nearly 100 DEI staff and faculty and included visitors from various campuses, Deans Lawless (education), Esters (graduate studies) Lang (liberal arts) and members of the University Equity Leadership Council.

George Kelly, Barbara Martino Kelly and PSU’s Department of English presented the 23rd Annual Emily Dickinson Lectureship in American Poetry to several hundred people at the HUB-Robeson Freeman auditorium. Pulitzer Prize winner and former United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey read from her collection and answered questions.

We are in the middle of the election campaign season. There are fundraisers and forums everywhere. Climate change, global warming, voting rights, a woman’s right to choose, gun control, immigration are all on the ballot in some form or person. Our state representative Paul Takac brought along his fellow Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta to support the candidacy of Centre County Commissioners Amber Concepcion and Mark Higgins.

The Constitution Day Centre Inc. held their annual birthday celebration at the VFW Hall. The audience broke into four workshops to discuss: primary procedures, alternatives to the two party system, the Electoral College, gerrymandering, voting rights and potential improvements to our election process. Rev. Harold and his wife Sherren McKenzie were honored with the Madison Award for Civility in The Community for their almost 50 years of dedicated community service. The McKenzies are co-pastors of Unity Church of Jesus Christ. Harold is co-founder of Community and Campus in Unity (CCU).

On a sad note, my colleague from law school, Prof. Joanne Epps, joined the ancestors. She collapsed on stage while hosting a tribute for Charles Blockson, who passed in June. The Blockson Collection, maintained by Penn State and Temple, is one of the most important assemblages of African American art, artifacts and literature in academia. Joanne was the second African American president of Temple University. She is sorely missed already.

G’mar chatima tovah.

Todas somos ; somos uno.

Charles Dumas is a lifetime political activist, a professor emeritus from Penn State, and was the Democratic Party’s nominee for U.S. Congress in 2012. He lives with his partner and wife of 50 years in State College.

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