The outdoor stage, located next to Iberville Dining Hall, was officially dedicated on Thursday, Oct. 21 as the Seven Oaks Stage, honoring the seven students who pushed to integrate Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches, with Marcus Jones, interim president, recognizing the families of the seven students who integrated Northwestern, as well as one of the only two remaining students.
NSU was segregated by race until in 1965 when seven students filed a lawsuit asking to be allowed to attend classes.
“After years of pushing for social change, the civil rights community of Natchitoches gave birth to a group of courageous citizens willing to become the first African American students to walk the hallowed halls of Northwestern State University,” said Student Government Association President, Taj’h Edwards.
After the seven students won in court, they attended their first semester in the spring of 1965, with another 19 students enrolling that summer and around 50 more in the fall of 1966, explained Edwards.
“By the spring of 1966, there were more than 100 Black students enrolled at NSU,” Edwards said.
“The first seven students were pioneers in the expansion of civil rights, and for planting the seed of equality and inclusion that has allowed Northwestern State University to grow and become the diverse institution that it is today,” said Edwards.
“I was told by the staff that it’s okay, you can join us because there are two caucasian students who have opened their arms to you, to live in the dorm with them and I’ll never forget that,” said Doris Ann Roque-Robinson, one of two living members of the seven students.
“My life at Northwestern was not a struggle,” said Roque-Robinson, “It was an honor.”
Edwards explained that there are seven oak trees planted around the stage, each named for the seven students Steve Jackson, June Cofield, Doris Ann Roque-Robinson, Hyams J. Baptiste, James Johnson, Johnnye Britton-Paige and Pearl Jones-Burton.
Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity Michael Snowden, called the event historic.
“The commemoration of the bravery and valor shown by these courageous seven students is nothing more than outstanding,” Snowden said.
Speaking of the seven students, Snowden said, “Your boldness and determination to demand equal access to your choice institution has yielded a harvest of possibility for African American and students of color.”
“If it weren’t for the brave seven students who fought to have an education here at NSU, I would not be in the position I am today,” said SGA Senator Ebenezer Aggrey, a sophomore business administration major. “I am and will forever be grateful to them for their work and fearlessness.”
SGA Vice President Kaylynn Simeion said that The Lifted Voices Gospel Choir opened the dedication ceremony and step performances from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity closed the event.