On February 29, the Woodbridge Campus MAN UP organization and Student Life hosted a luncheon and panel discussion in honor of Black History Month. The theme, “Unsung Heroes: Understanding our Past to Prepare for the Future,” sparked dialogue on the topics of equality, empowerment and leadership among students, faculty and eight local activist.
Prince William County residents with highly-distinctive backgrounds in education, military, medicine and economic development – Norma Fields, Karl Brower, John Harper, James Harper Jr., Dr. William Fergie Reid, Clarice Torian, Bruce Smith and Andrea Bryson – answered questions as well as shared personal stories on overcoming adversity. Student Services Center Counselor Richmond Hill, MAN UP founder and program coordinator, said the well-attended event was held to honor influential leaders within the community by encouraging leadership and responsibility.
“Our program was held to honor community members who have fought the fight and paved the way for many to follow,” Hill said. “It was an amazing opportunity for our campus community to hear stories that will help us to understand the past and prepare for the future.”
As the first African-American to serve on the Board of Directors for the Prince William County Park Authority, Harper was also the first elected African-American in Prince William County to represent the Board of Education-Neabsco Magisterial District. He challenged NOVA students to step outside of their comfort zones and become actively engaged on campus and within their community.
“As students, it is imperative to become involved in something that you care deeply about,” Harper said. “Find out what stands out to you and go after it. Becoming conscious and stepping outside of yourselves can help develop your own unique leadership abilities.”
Reid, the first African-American elected to the General Assembly in the twentieth century, and former medical doctor, shared his experiences as being one of the founders of the Crusade for Voters, organized in 1955.
“If you want to bring about change, the change has to come from you,” Reid said. “Whether it’s political, social or economic, do not wait for someone else to do it. It’s all about having the initiative to bring about change and the confidence within to lead. You have the power to do anything, if you set your mind to do it.”
“We are depending on the younger generation to promote equality, justice and peace for all mankind,” said Andrea Bryson, retired director of counseling for Prince William County Public Schools. “For the benefit of yourselves and for those who come along after you, it is necessary to become engaged and care about the well-being of others.”