N.C. A&T awards the Human Rights Medal to Justice Anita Earls at 61st sit-in anniversary


Courtesy of N.C. A&T University Relations

Jamille Whitlow, TheYard Editor

Due to the pandemic, AVEX, a video production company in Kernersville, has partnered with N.C. A&T in creating a video paying tribute to the A&T Four. 

Traditionally, the celebration consisted of several in-person activities: an annual breakfast, keynote speaker, panel discussion and a N.C.A&T Fellowship Gospel Choir performance. Although social restrictions have limited in-person activities, the school continues to host the anniversary publicly but via Webex and Facebook Live. 

Dr. Dawn Murphy, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, has coordinated the sit-in anniversary for four years. She picked this year’s theme “It’s about Us” referring to African-Americans’ voices and the Black Voters Matter campaign. 

“We [Student Affairs] had partnered with Black Voters Matter campaign during the election season, and their slogan is “It’s about Us,” Murphy said. We saw how the black vote matters and that we have voices at the table, which is what the Four did.” 

The celebration began with an annual video presentation capturing the voices of the A&T Four and their experiences. Shortly after, SGA President, Brenda Caldwell, introduced  a series of students and alumni who appreciate the legacy of the A&T Four. 

The program included Bennett College’s SGA President, Ashley Robinson, and Micaiah Coley, an Early College student at Dudley High School, who thanked the A&T Four for their contribution in the civil rights movement. 

Following their appearance, Tylik McMillan, N.C. A&T 2019 Alumnus, planned and organized the 2020 Commitment March in Washington, D.C.  He expressed how people should be motivated to stand for their rights. 

“We cannot lose momentum or become complacent, but now is the time for us to organize and strategize for the things we know we deserve,” McMillan said.“Just as they [A&T Four] did at the Woolworth’s counter in 1960, we must show up everyday despite the challenge, and never give in.”

After remarks were made, Chancellor Martin awarded North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls the 2021 Human Rights Award. 

The Human Rights Award is the highest annual N.C. A&T award given to someone who influences social justice and advocates for civil rights through their actions. Justice Earls described how the A&T Four is inspirational. 

“It was inspirational to me to see that young people can stand up for what they think is right, and have a huge impact on changing our society,” Earls said.

For over 30 years, Earls was a civil rights attorney dealing with voting rights cases and addressing civil rights matters during her entire career. She worked under President Clintion’s administration as a deputy assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. 

After her tenure, the North Carolina State Board of Elections appointed her to join the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission in 2009. Her other accolades include being the founder of a nonprofit program, Southern Coalition for Social Justice. This program is responsible for helping underrepresented families with legal matters relating to racism and oppression.  Additionally, she was an adjunct professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Maryland Law Schools, and the Duke University Department of African American Studies.

The program concluded with the son of Franklin McCain, Franklin McCain Jr., and the son of David Richmond, David Richmond Jr., emphasizing the theme of “It’s about Us” and how the A&T Four legacy is current to today’s social climate. 

“My friends, it is about us, it’s about us now. We must continue to let our voices be heard from the classroom, to the courtroom, from the house, to the White House. It is all about us,” said McCain Jr.