Common Ground on the Hill brings classes to CCC Music, lectures focus on racial harmony

February 23, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll Community College students will have a chance to see and hear how traditional music and spirited dialogue can build racial and ethnic harmony.

Common Ground on the Hill, a summer arts festival at Western Maryland College, is taking its themes to the neighboring school, giving community college students a chance to enroll in innovative classes.

Walt Michael founded Common Ground three years ago and has drawn nationally known artists and lecturers to the Westminster campus. He and Eric Byrd, an instructor with Common Ground and Western Maryland College, are teaching four courses in traditional gospel, jazz and folk sounds, that will allow students to delve into the roots of American music.

Those attracted to the essence of Common Ground should study "Race Relations in the United States: A Dialogue Respecting Difference and Reflecting Hope." Ira Zepp, nationally known author of several volumes on the civil rights movement and its leaders, and Lea Gilmore, a coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union, will discuss integration and separation during the 10-week course.

"These are two knowledgeable people who can shed light on race relations in a format that offers a great opportunity to get together and learn," said Michael. "A lot of problems result from just not understanding where the other person is coming from. Ira and Lea can give us an understanding of how we got to this point."

Gilmore sees the class as an extension of the principles of Common Ground, with "the ground we share made so evident."

The contrast between the instructors -- a young African-American woman and a white male retired college professor -- should immediately pull students into the theme, Gilmore said.

"It will show two people of different backgrounds communicating with each other -- two different generations and colors who share a common need to see races come together," she said. "We come from two different perspectives, but we end in the same place.

Zepp will give a history of slavery, the Civil War and black-white relations using the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X as his focus. "Martin and Malcolm represent the two major responses," said Zepp. "We will discuss how they balanced out the African-American response to American history and what society can learn from them."

The course, which begins Wednesday, will rely on lectures, informal discussions and videos -- many covering the most compelling incidents and speeches of the civil rights movement.

But the primary intent of the course is to spur dialogue, said Gilmore, an instructor with Common Ground and a member of its gospel choir.

Gilmore, who has been a guest lecturer in Zepp's classes at Western Maryland College, calls the professor "an important expert on my culture."

A graduate of Essex Community College and Morgan State University, she finds community colleges a great forum for insightful discourse.

"Community colleges truly have a sense of community," she said. "There are also many non-traditional students, more open to diversity."

Diana Scott, Carroll Community College spokeswoman, said the school purposefully chose to open the class during Black History Month.

"We thought the Common Ground concepts were so good that we wanted our students to benefit from the experience," Scott said.

The race relations classes are from 6: 30 to 8: 30 p.m. Wednesdays through May 7. Tuition is $108. Information: 876-3880.

Pub Date: 2/23/97

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