Alumni Spotlight: Jeremiah Day '89

Jeremiah Day '89 is a Berlin-based artist dealing with memory, politics and sense of place. Day has an ongoing project reflecting on the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in Alabama and has worked with Earl Mills, the Chief of the Mashpee Wampanoags in New England, among others, gathering individuals' memories of political struggles and honoring them in the form of multimedia art installations and performance.  The Lowndes County Freedom Organization was founded in 1965 by Stokely Carmichael, The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Local Farmers and Teachers after the Selma TO Montgomery March to protect and organize Black voter registration in the face of Political Repression so great that in Lowndes County Alabama 80% of the population was Black but no Black citizens were registered to vote.  Several activists, white and black, were killed in this struggle, but in a short time this new political party - whose logo was a black panther, the inspiration for the later more famous panthers - had changed all this and there were black elected officials.  Jeremiah's ongoing project aims to understand and commemorate the LCFO.
 
"At one point on one of my trips to Selma, Alabama I asked myself, "How did I get here and why does this stuff matter so much to me? Why have I built my life with a core commitment to politics so that I could appreciate and try to foster the legacy of the freedom struggle? And I realized it all dates back to a lecture I saw in seventh grade at Shady Hill by a parent, James Dilday, about his experience in the SNCC in the 1960's. Led by figures like Diane Nash, John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, SNCC student activists were at the foreground of developing aggressive strategies like freedom rides and local voter registration drives, leading to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party among other bold initiatives.
"Dilday's compelling description of how he and his collaborators in the SNCC connected with the disenfranchised citizens of the South and worked to demand freedom and justice actually changed my life, I realize now. The image of young students in an interracial coalition challenging the political machine is burned into my brain. I saw that the fight for freedom and justice was the work of courageous, committed citizens, even young ones, not much older than us. The story of SNCC is not often told - there is no monument for them - and it is incredible to appreciate now -- at age 45 -- that my life's path has partly hinged on that lecture, and behind it the educators who made it possible. This connection between education and political participation is foundational to the United States but gets little recognition."
 
"I was only there for two years, but Shady Hill in this way defined me to this day: the course of my life and how I raise my family and try to be a public citizen and artist. It is a testimony to how something as modest as the work of organizing a school's visiting speaker program can itself be a form of transformative public action. I think this underscores the responsibility we adults all now have to face the challenges of our own moment."
 
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