Philander's social justice mission | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Philander's social justice mission

Posted By on Wed, Aug 26, 2009 at 4:00 PM

I am a fan of Dr. Walter Kimbrough, the vibrant president of Philander Smith College. He's smart, energetic and also provocative. See his lecture series, with the likes of Ann Coulter.

He'll likely ruffle a few feathers this week, too, with events scheduled Thursday morning for the college's opening convocation. The school will honor Nigel Haskett with its new Ozell Sutton Medal of Justice, named in honor of the pioneering African-American journalist and 1950 Philander graduate. Haskett is the McDonald's employee who was seriously injured protecting a female customer from an abusive former boyfriend. That's not controversial.

There might be a touch of controversy in the convocation speaker, Rev. Michael Fleger, a Chicago Catholic priest described in the Philander release as having used "the power of his pulpit to battle social injustice. As an activist, he has waged war against violence, drugs, the degradation of women and exploitation by liquor and tobacco companies in his community."

Fleger's a lightning rod. He welcomed Rev. Jeremiah Wright to his church, after Barack Obama's former pastor had become poison to the Obama campaign. He riled the NRA by his protests outside a suburban gun shop. He was suspended from duties briefly after sharp remarks portraying Hillary Clinton's opposition to Obama in terms of white entitlement. There have been many more targets, including white elementary schools, crude rappers and more.

Love or hate what he's said, Fleger embodies social activism. 

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