The impact of the "Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan." decision and the challenges remaining 50 years later will be the focus of this year's Critical Issues Symposium at Hope College.
The speakers will include Harvard theologian the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, and Cheryl Brown Henderson and Linda Brown Thompson, sisters who as children were at the center of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case which ultimately struck down segregation.
The annual Critical Issues Symposium provides an intensive look at a single topic. This year's symposium, taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 28-29, is examining "Race and Opportunity: Echoes of Brown v. Board of Education."
The public is invited. Admission is free.
The symposium will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. with the keynote address "Reflections of a Race Man" by Gomes in Dimnent Memorial Chapel, located on College Avenue at 12th Street.
Gomes, who is the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in The Memorial Church at Harvard University, wrote the best-selling book "The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart," and was featured in "Talk" magazine in 1999 as one of "The Best Talkers in America: Fifty Big Mouths We Hope Will Never Shut Up." In addition to presenting the opening keynote, he will lead a focus session on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 10:30 a.m. and the symposium's concluding chapel service on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.
The presentations on Wednesday, Sept. 29, will open with the keynote address "Beyond the Headlines: Personal Reflections on Brown v. Board of Education" at 9 a.m. by Cheryl and Linda Brown. The address will be in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.Cheryl and Linda Brown are two of the children of the late Rev. Oliver L. Brown. Along with their mother and sister, they are dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision. Linda has been a Head Start teacher, and at one time taught private music lessons in piano. She is currently program associate with the Brown Foundation, and serves as director of music for one of the Methodist churches in Topeka, where she has chaired several project committees. Cheryl has been a sixth grade teacher, university guest lecturer, school guidance counselor and state educational administrator, and is currently executive director of the Brown Foundation.
The Brown sisters will also lead a "question-and-answer" focus session on Wednesday at 1 p.m.
The focus sessions featuring Gomes and the Brown sisters on Wednesday are among a variety of concurrent presentations that will take place at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. in multiple locations.
In addition to the session led by Gomes, the 10:30 a.m. sessions will include "Brown to Birmingham: A Personal Odyssey into Science," by Shirley Malcom of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and "Working as a Change Agent Within the Community: Becoming a Flea for Justice," by Okianer Christian Dark of Howard University.
The 1 p.m. sessions, in addition to the Q&A with the Brown sisters, will include "Numbers Ain't Enough: The Significance of Diversity in What and How We Teach," by Orlando Taylor of Howard University; "Mendez v. Westminster: An Ethic Studies Perspective on Its Cultural and Political Significance," by Catherine Benamou of the University of Michigan; and "Understanding the Significance of Diversity Through the University of Michigan Case," by John Matlock of the University of Michigan.
The 2:15 p.m. sessions are sponsored by several of the college's academic departments, and include topics in biology; communication; economics, management and accounting; education; history; political science; and psychology and sociology and social work.
More information concerning the three blocks of sessions, including locations, will be available in the printed programs distributed during the symposium, and may be also found through the college's Web site, www.hope.edu/cis/.The  concluding chapel service on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. will take place in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. Participants in addition to Gomes will include Hope music ensembles.
The college's Critical Issues Symposium, first held in 1980, was established to stimulate serious thinking about current issues, and to provide a forum in which the Holland community, students and faculty may all engage in discussion with experts. The college cancels classes for a day to provide an opportunity for the event.
Past topics have included "The Middle East," "World Hunger, "The Family," "Energy," "Civil Rights," "The Quest for Justice: Christian Voices," "Lifeboat Earth: Decisions for Tomorrow," "The Columbus Legacy, 1492-1992," "Race and Social Change in America," "What Future is in our Genes: Freedom from Disease, Good Investment, Manufactured Humans?," "Sport and American Life," "Feminism and Faith: Implications for Life," "Gold Rush and Ghost Towns: Living with the Internet," "Earth Matters: Daily Decisions, Environmental Echoes" and "Putting Science in Its Place: Discovery and Responsibility."