Journalism professor receives MLK Award for documentary work
Published: Monday, January 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, January 16, 2012 23:01
West Virginia University Associate Professor of journalism Joel Beeson was recognized Monday with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for his documentary work on black WWI soldiers in southern West Virginia.
Each year, WVU hosts the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast, sponsored by the WVU Center for Black Culture & Research. The CBCR presents the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement award to an individual who embodies the spirit of King by humanitarian works to better human rights and equality in the state.
Beeson is a human rights activist and photographer, and he received the award for his work in McDowell County.
Beeson has created an online exhibit for the Kimball World War I Memorial, and students of the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism contribute to the site each semester.
The project included an exhibit installation to the memorial in Kimball, W.Va., called "Soldiers of the Coalfields: The Story of African American Soldiers in World War I."
Beeson also created the PBS- aired documentary, "Fighting on Two Fronts: the Untold Stories of African American WWII Veterans," which is where he met Marcus Cranford, who introduced and presented Beeson with the award.
Cranford said when Beeson first approached him about the documentary he thought Beeson would get pictures, ask questions and then leave, but Beeson showed a deeper interest, and the two became friends.
"I couldn't hardly speak because it really elated me, and I felt it an honor and a privilege to do that," Cranford said. "I would like to say that he has been a friend and a brother."
He said he felt Beeson's work would create a conversation about the roles of African American's in veteran history and black history in general.
The breakfast also honored Benjamin Seebaugh, political science and international studies student, with the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship.
Seebaugh has been active in working for minority rights on campus, and he founded the Student Advocates for Legislative Advancement. Seebaugh is actively working through student government to begin a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender studies minor. He has also lobbied for a LGBT anti-bullying committee.
The key speaker for the unity breakfast was Patricia Lee, director of the WVU Entrepreneurship Law Clinic at WVU College of Law. Lee said King had an important influence on her own life.
"It was when King came to Chicago the second time in August of 1966 and marched with 600 demonstrators for me, my mother, my father, my siblings, the community of Chicago, that I felt I was connected in real tangible ways," Lee said.
Lee said march was the precipice of change for her, and as a 9-year-old girl she would never forget sitting with her family in front of a small black-and-white television to watch the event.
"To see where we need to head as we march forward, I ask you each this question," she said. "Where does the injustice lie in your community? Are there individuals or groups of people that are being bullied, harassed or hurt?"
WVU Vice President of Student Affairs Kenneth Gray said the University is "committed to realizing King's dream on this campus."
Gray said the 2020 Strategic Plan for the Future and how it will continue to promote King's principles through inclusiveness and diversity. Gray focused on King's "I Have a Dream" speech and said he wanted WVU to keep a commitment to King's work and ideals.
"We continue to share his hope that ‘in some not-too-distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty'," Gray said.