September 8, 2021

Joe Heyward, Glenis Redmond events will launch FMU’s new cultural initiative

Joe Heyward, Glenis Redmond events will launch FMU’s new cultural initiative

FLORENCE, S.C. — This September, Francis Marion University will host two events to foster discussion about racial changes and experiences within diverse communities.

The events are part of FMU’s anticipated entry into Universities Studying Slavery (USS), a national consortium of higher education institutions that focuses on the historical impact of slavery on communities and seeks to promote better racial and cultural understanding.

First, a lecture by Dr. Joseph Heyward — retired FMU provost and administrator — will take place Tuesday Sept. 21 at 6 p.m., at Trinity Baptist Church. Heyward spent his career advocating for educational equity and will discuss how race affected his life and career as an educator in the Pee Dee region The lecture will be livestreamed on FMU’s YouTube channel. Students unable to attend the lecture in-person can also watch the livestream in Lowrimore Auditorium on the FMU campus. Following the lecture, Associate Provost Allison Steadman will facilitate a question-and-answer session with the audience at Trinity.

On Thursday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m., world-renowned poet, teacher, and performance artist Glenis Redmond will deliver an interactive poetry performance in Chapman Auditorium on the FMU campus.  Her work centers on the African-American experience, drawing from her personal history growing up in the Carolinas.

A native of Sumter, S.C., Redmond has received numerous honors, including being named a Cave Canem Fellow and a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist. The event is open to the public and will be live-streamed on FMU’s YouTube channel.

Following the performance, Student Life Vice President and historian Christopher Kennedy will facilitate an audience discussion session.

Redmond’s appearance is funded by the South Carolina Humanities Council and the Pee Dee Poetry and Fiction Festival.

Both September events are in anticipation of Francis Marion’s joining the USS consortium. The University of Virginia established the first USS program in 2014. When admitted, FMU will be the seventh college in South Carolina to join the consortium. Current South Carolina universities who are members of USS are The Citadel, Clemson University, College of Charleston, Furman University, University of South Carolina and Wofford College.

More information on USS can be found at

These efforts will enhance the work of the FMU African American Faculty & Staff Coalition, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Linda Sullen is the current president and a founding member of the FMU African American Faculty & Staff Coalition and has worked at FMU since 1977. She said the support provided by FMU’s administration, faculty and staff towards diversity and equality over the years has been transformational.

“This university, our president and the trustees has always encouraged us to express who we are and empowered us to tell our story as African Americans,” Sullen said. “I am thankful for this new opportunity provided by the University through USS as a way of continuing to tell that story to people of all races and backgrounds.”

Other initiatives pursued include the African American collection of works housed at the James A. Rogers Library. Dean of the Library Demetra Walker says the collection began in 2011 with funding from the University and a recurring grant from the US Department of Education and was officially opened in 2016. Currently, the collection includes 6,500 titles that include some rare editions donated by Pee Dee residents. The collection also features 390 educational DVDs and databases ranging from African American newspapers and periodicals, as well as slavery and the law, dating back to 1897. 

FMU historian Erica Edwards will be the faculty coordinator for the new USS initiative and Associate Provost Steadman will serve as administrative liaison to the national consortium.