Arthur Henry Memorial Dedication Ceremony

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Dr. Kathleen Bell

Bio

Dr. Bell is a retired Professor of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Central Florida. She spent 11 years teaching English, grades 7-12, in the public schools (Seale, AL 1967-68; Chicago northwest suburbs 1968-78). Her 38 years of university teaching included positions at Arizona State University, the University of Alabama, the University of Miami, Old Dominion University, and the University of Central Florida.

She published two books, Developing Arguments and Writing Choices plus an array of articles and instructional programs on interdisciplinary and professional writing.

She serves as the bibliographer for ATJ.

How long have you been active in anti-racist work?

As a college freshman in 1964, I arrived on the Auburn University campus in Alabama the year the Civil Rights Act was passed. My experience with racial prejudice at that point was limited to the White/Colored water fountains, restrooms, and beaches in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; our schools were not integrated. Witnessing outright racial prejudice on the Alabama streets, I was faced with a moral choice: follow the local herd and be physically safe or join the voter registration ranks to encourage Blacks to vote and provide the safety for them to do so in Alabama. I was 18, a white woman, and NOT eligible to vote, but I was convinced I could make a difference for people to achieve equality. So I have been actively trying to achieve that goal for 58 years across 6 states.

What brought you to anti-racist activism? Why do you feel called to this work?

My first year of teaching in Alabama (1967-68), the schools were forced by federal mandate to integrate. One Black woman teacher and one bus load of Black students constituted integration at the high school. When the other teachers learned that when taking roll I called the names of the Black students and graded their work, I was ostracized from the Women’s Faculty lounge and restroom; in the spring some unknown source damaged my car with baseball bats presumably because I had a McCarthy sticker instead of one for Wallace. Daily life became dangerous for me, so when my husband had a chance to transfer to Chicago, we moved. Chicago is a city where people make sure their voices are heard. I had never experienced such an active protest movement: union rights, women’s rights, gay liberation rights, environmental rights, abortion rights, rights to protest the Viet Nam war. This was my introduction to methods of activism, how to get voices heard in ways to initiate change.

Why does anti-racism work matter?

In order for our communities to be productive, we need to work together, which means that each member of the community needs to be recognized and have a voice in order to make contributions.

Why/how did you get involved with ATJ?

Kristin Congdon and I were close UCF colleagues for 25 years. We served on numerous committees together and worked to develop the Women and Gender Studies program. I have always respected Kristin’s community arts programs and admire her prodigious output of scholarly work. When we retired, we made it a point to meet for lunch or dinner every semester. I told her I would be happy to assist on any of her projects. That’s when Kristin extended an invitation to join ATJ. Although I live in Cape Canaveral, I was sure I could commit to a monthly meeting and serve as the group’s editor and bibliographer.

What are you most proud of so far in ATJ’s Accomplishments List?

I am most proud of our EJI partnership. Our group made a commitment to articulate our goals, establish outreach to the community, conduct the historical research necessary to educate the public and respect descendants. EJI recognized this commitment and honored our work by sanctioning the first lynching marker in Orange County.

What is the biggest goal you hope to accomplish with ATJ?

I would like to have more people from Ocoee become members of ATJ so that our work will continue to influence the community in personally meaningful ways. Grow advocacy!

In your opinion, what is ATJ’s greatest challenge right now?

Although we have a dedicated core, our membership could use the input of young adults who have a stake in the community. How do we attract them? Also, how can we encourage, fortify, and protect the voting process?

In your opinion, what is ATJ’s greatest strength?

Our dedication.

What skills do you have that are underutilized in ATJ?

My editing skills are being well utilized.