By Drew Durst

For The Diamondback

University of Maryland community members gathered in Stamp Student Union Friday for the Parren J. Mitchell Symposium to examine historical narratives around people of color.

The annual event was organized by the Critical Race Initiative — a group of scholars in this university’s sociology department. The symposium included panels spanning several topics and poster presentations about research on race.

“[Event organizers] saw a need not only to convene scholars to talk about important issues, but also to pay homage to Parren Mitchell,” Demar Lewis, an assistant professor in this university’s criminology and criminal justice department, said.

The symposium was in honor of Parren James Mitchell.

Mitchell, born in 1922, was the son of American civil rights activist Clarence Mitchell. He served in the United States Army during World War II before earning his bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University in 1950.

After receiving his undergraduate degree, Mitchell aimed for admission to this university’s graduate school, but was denied because of its segregation, according to the HistoryMakers. Mitchell successfully sued this university and ultimately became the first Black graduate student to take classes at this university’s College Park campus. He received his master’s degree in sociology in 1952.

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Event attendees aimed to “uplift” Mitchell’s story for the university community, Lewis said.

The theme of this year’s symposium was “Controlling the Narrative.”

This year’s event aimed to tell stories about different populations that are often overlooked, Lewis noted.

“We’re doing work in community with people to uplift experiences that are not often talked about and to provide narratives that do not exactly speak to what is always said,” Lewis said.

During the event, Raina Hackett — a George Washington University alum — presented a poster about the life of former U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm.

Chisholm was a key player in the passage of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children — one of the most successful U.S. assistance programs, according to a story by Hackett published by the University of Kansas.

Despite her large role in the program, Chisholm has been largely left out of the modern discussion of the WIC program, according to Hackett’s poster at Friday’s event. Her involvement was also absent in government documents and academic journals on the program, the poster said.

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Hackett, who currently serves as a legislative assistant in Congress, said Chisholm “didn’t fit into any of the boxes,” which prevented her from receiving the praise she deserved.

“She was the first of her kind so they didn’t really know where to put her,” Hackett said.

Christina Getrich, an associate professor in this university’s anthropology department, also discussed stories of U.S. immigrants who are reliant on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to remain in the United States.

DACA’s uncertainty has led to stress for many immigrant communities, Getrich said in a speech Friday.

“Psychological distress was lingering for folks because of the upcoming election and also the legal vulnerability of their family members,” Getrich said Friday.

Moving forward, Lewis hoped the event would foster more multidisciplinary research into each respective field.

“I think the importance of this symposium was to uplift researchers and research, which is making important contributions to different disciplinary spaces,” Lewis said.