Monday, April 20, 2009

Communication Department Receives $5,000 First Amendment Grant to Fund Liberty Tree Week@Berry

The Berry College Department of Communication has received a $5,000 grant from the Liberty Tree Campus Initiative, a project funded by the McCormick Foundation to develop thought-provoking programs about the First Amendment. Berry is the first institution to be awarded such a grant in 2009.

The Liberty Tree Initiative is an informal coalition of educators, journalists, librarians, artists and authors with a shared interest in building awareness of the First Amendment through education and information. It was founded in partnership with the American Society of Newspaper Editors, with help and support from the Knight Foundation, the McCormick Foundation and the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.

The Department of Communication aims to increase awareness of and appreciation for the role of the First Amendment in American society through Liberty Tree Week@ Berry, a program of speakers, exhibits and performances; admission to all events is free and open to the public.

The celebration kicks off this Thursday, April 23, with the 5 p.m. planting of a large Liberty Tree elm in front of Evans Hall, home to Berry’s Evans School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. This event commemorates the elm tree near Boston Commons where, in 1765, America’s earliest patriots first spoke of the need for a new nation founded on liberty. The Liberty Tree Initiative seeks to place a Liberty Tree elm on participating campuses as a symbol of the importance of the First Amendment to an educated public. The planting will be followed by a Harvest Moon-catered reception in the lobby of the Science Complex. The reception will be held in conjunction with the 12th Annual Conference on Politics, Religion, Culture and Community presented by Berry’s Department of Government and International Studies.

Liberty Tree Week@Berry continues Wednesday, April 29, with “The First Information Revolution: The Lost Gutenberg Bibles & Religious Expression.” This event, scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Science Auditorium, will feature a presentation by Tim Yancey, master bookbinder, who will discuss the production of a limited series of historically accurate, precise Gutenberg Bible reproductions. Examples of the reproductions at various stages of production will be displayed.

Historical context for the session will be provided by Dr. Kathy Brittain McKee, professor of communication at Berry. After Yancey’s presentation, Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center in both Washington D.C., and Nashville, Tenn., will lead a short discussion about religious expression and freedom of information in America today.

The Gutenberg presentation will be followed at 8 p.m. by “Freedom Sings,” an evening of banned music in Barnwell Chapel. Featured performers include Josh Huggins and Brandon Trapp of the Ian Trapp Band, as well as Berry’s “In His Name” gospel choir. Policinski will provide historical context for the various selections.

The weeklong celebration concludes Thursday, April 30, with a keynote address by Ken Paulson, former editor and senior vice president of news for USA Today and current president and CEO of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Paulson’s lecture, “Rebooting America: The First Amendment & A New Generation,” will begin at 8 p.m. in the Science Auditorium. Cultural events credit is available for Berry students in attendance.

Paulson’s remarks will be followed by responses from Dr. Tom Kennedy, professor of philosophy and dean of the Evans School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and Dr. Michael Bailey, associate professor and chair of Berry’s government department.

Throughout the week, Memorial Library will host an exhibit of banned books through the ages entitled “Stop the Presses!” The exhibition opens April 23. From 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. the day of the opening, once-banned books will be read aloud on the library’s front steps. Students, faculty and staff are invited to read a passage from a once-banned or challenged book of their choice or from a book provided by the library.

Also ongoing at Berry are the Liberty Tree Week@Berry Writing Contest and the Ram Read ’n Slam Poetry Competition, both of which focus on the theme of free expression in America. Cash prizes are being offered in both the writing and poetry contests, which are open to Berry undergraduate students.

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