Fuhr creates UWP legacy

April 14, 2006

2006_04_14.jpgPLATTEVILLE - An event that will be remembered for years to come, from whispers late into the evening or intense academic debates, was the reverse Jim Crow Simulation held at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. The event was designed to place white people into some of the discriminatory situations black people endured under Jim Crow laws, laws imposed in the South after the Civil War and that continued into the 1960s. The simulation, enforced throughout the Pioneer Student Center sparked discussion amongst visitors yet regardless of the outcome, to creator and UWP junior April Fuhr, it will live forever in her memory as a success.

When Barry Scott came to UWP in 2004 to perform his one-man play based on the words of Martin Luther King Jr., Fuhr couldn't help but be intrigued and inspired. In King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," he addressed clergy members and wrote, "I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race." Later in the letter, King goes on to explain the awkwardness when trying to explain to young children why they cannot go to an amusement park or why colored people are treated differently. Commented Fuhr, "Sitting in the theater listening to Scott's performance, I could not imagine trying to tell my nephews they couldn't do something because of their skin color. How do you approach a child with these topics when myself and many of my counter parts have never felt the sting of segregation." With Black History month planning right around the corner, Fuhr suggested segregating campus. During spring break 2005, she visited a Civil Rights Museum to begin gathering visual ideas to help create the reality of the Jim Crow era on the UWP campus. Planning commenced at full speed during the fall 2005 semester with one major hurdle to overcome. Fuhr had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic illness characterized by widespread pain throughout the body. Despite all odds, she prevailed and continued to plan, create and organize the event.

As an education major, Fuhr wanted to create as much of a visual and interactive experience as possible. "I'm a huge believer of sensory learning and wanted this to carry over to the simulation so people would get more out of it than a lecture," she said. Some of these interactions included signs directing visitors to the correct entrances, compiling music to be played during the simulation, writing accurate historical skits and requesting a special southern food line to be served in the Pioneer Crossing. Fuhr's parents, Ron and Dodie Fuhr of Monticello, also got involved watching countless hours of movies and documentaries to help gather facts and ideas. With the entire student center booked for the event, it took a lot of volunteers to make it possible. Commented Fuhr, "It would not have been possible without the help of many close friends and departments on the UWP campus. Everyone from Counseling Services, Housing and Diversity Advocates to the student center and tech crew staffs were amazing. James Ball and Todd Duwe were incredible. They never told me 'no' and helped make my hard work a reality." She also recognizes UWP Chancellor David Markee and his cabinet members for being supportive of the event from the very beginning. "There is nothing in the nation like what we've done at UWP. I give a lot of credit to Chancellor Markee for giving me the opportunity to help. I was given free reign on the project and allowed to run with it," said Fuhr.

Fuhr is already anticipating expanding her creative endeavors into her own business, Walk A Mile Simulations Co. The company would share similar principles from the Jim Crow simulation with schools, museums or even city employees struggling with racism issues. She plans to expand topics to include a slavery middle passage and possibly Islamic life simulation. "The simulations are a great way to incorporate learning and the same principles can be easily adapted depending on the group," said Fuhr. She added, "The main purpose was to give people a broader frame of reference to understand segregation, but even with this experience and education, we will never truly understand what the black people of that era went through. Even people, who reacted negatively, reacted, which is positive. Obviously this made a huge impact on the school since people are still talking about it." In the words of Robert F. Kennedy, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope . . . those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." For more information about combating segregation or this event, contact Fuhr at fuhrap@uwplatt.edu.

Contact: April Fuhr, UWP student, (608) 558-0367,fuhrap@uwplatt.edu

Prepared by: Rachael Lehr, UWP Public Relations, (608) 342-1194,lehrr@uwplatt.edu


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