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Saturday, May 28, 2022

Civil rights activist Margaret Block to speak in Ustler Hall

Long before there were occupiers and tea partiers, there was Margaret Block and a generation that organized the mid-century civil rights movement.

Block, a civil rights activist and member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, will share her experiences at UF tonight through her poetry, freedom songs and personal remembrances of the civil rights era.

She will be speaking at 7 p.m. in Ustler Hall. Free parking for the event will be available next to Pugh Hall.

Block, a life-long activist from the Mississippi Delta, believes students could learn a lot from her generation.

"I think they could learn how to organize and do something," Block said. "They need to stand for change and give a voice to the voiceless."

Block was a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an organization established in 1960 by civil rights protesters. She helped to organize and plan events in three Mississippi counties and worked alongside influential members of the movement, including Fannie Lou Hamer, Stokely Carmichael and Lawrence Guyot, the founding chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

She says she's encouraged by the Occupy protests and the recent waves of civil disobedience, but she believes college students need to do more to obtain real change.

"It always starts in the schools," Block said. "The young people need to lead the fight against inequalities."

Nailah Summers, a 24-year-old philosophy senior, met Block in September during the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program's annual trip to the Mississippi Delta. She asked Block to speak at UF.

"She was surrounded by people you read about in history books," Summers said. "Meeting her and seeing what she's dedicated her life to was inspiring and touching. She's someone I hope to be like at her age."

Block said she loves the chance to talk with college students and hopes to inspire them to fight for something they're passionate about and have aspirations for themselves.

"The sin isn't failing to reach your goals," Block said. "The sin is not having any stars to reach for."

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