BANGOR, Maine — Obed Rinvil came to his alma mater Sunday to take part in something on campus he did not participate in while a student at Husson University — a celebration to mark Black History Month.
Rinvil, 26, of Old Orchard Beach, graduated in 2012 with a degree in business and computer information systems. Raised in Patterson, N.J., he was used to a more racially diverse community than the one he found in Bangor.
“When I started here, there was no recognition for Martin Luther King Day or Black History Month,” Rinvil, who played football at Husson, said. “I’m glad they’ve taken steps to welcome events such as this one on campus.”
The university and the Greater Bangor Area chapter of the NAACP jointly sponsored the event Sunday to commemorate the 50th anniversaries of the March on Washington in 1963 and the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Students from the Pupil Union for Multicultural Affairs, PUMA, at Eastern Maine Community College also participated.
The event, which drew about 50 students and community members, featured a screening of the legendary “I Have a Dream” speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the march and a panel made up of seasoned civil rights activists.
Rinvil spent a few minutes after the event talking with D.W. Mayweather, 63, of Bangor. A native of south Florida, Mayweather said he remembers having to use separate bathrooms and make purchases at the back of a store instead of at the front where the whites paid.
“We need to continue to push for change because America still needs to change and accept the reality of its creed,” the elder man said. “It’s all right to say it, but it’s important to live it everyday.”
Carl Francis, 35, of Brewer is the president of PUMA at EMCC. He said that as the father of two biracial children, ages 6 and 8, King’s message resounded with him.
“To see that film, to hear him speak sent goosebumps through my spine,” he said. “I want to carry that spirit he did of looking beyond the unknown and looking at everyone as equal.”
Robert Talbot, vice president of the local NAACP chapter, said it is important for those who lived through the civil rights movement to share with students the experiences and memories of those turbulent times. Talbot, 73, of Bangor said that Sunday’s program “serves as a reminder of the importance of social justice and the need to continue the work that began over 50 years ago, to rid our society of bigotry, hate and prejudice.”