Living Library event honors Ben Johnson for Black History Month

Leanna Coy
News Editor

Waston Memorial Library’s Living Library Collection will host its second event, Ben Johnson: A Natchitoches Legacy, on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m.

The event will feature a panel of speakers that had a connection to Johnson including Claire Prymus, State Rep. Kenny Cox, Coushatta Mayor Dr. Johnny Cox, Edward Ward Jr. and Dr. Marcus Jones.

Each speaker will have about 15 minutes to share stories and memories of Johnson. There will also be a question and answer portion at the end of the discussion.

“The things he [Ben Johnson] stood for and what he meant to the community is still being followed through, especially by the people on the panel,” Deborah Huntington, head of collection development/cataloging at Watson Library, said.

Huntington said the event will be recorded and put onto a DVD that students will be able to check out at the library. Eventually, Huntington said there will also be a link to the program in the online catalog so that students can use the speakers as a primary source for research.

“We’re hoping that a lot of community members will also attend,” Huntington said.

Part of the purpose of the Living Library, Huntington said, is about knocking down stereotypes and biases while showcasing someone who helped the community. Huntington said one of the reasons Johnson was chosen as the topic during Black History Month was because they wanted to showcase not only what he did for Natchitoches but for Northwestern State University as well.

Anna MacDonald, head of serials/media, said she hopes the students who attend the event are inspired by Johnson.

“He was someone who not only built himself up [but] he supported his community,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald described some of the ways Johnson left his legacy including his churches, casket factory, funeral home, camps and more. MacDonald said Johnson also helped bridge the gap between the white and black communities in Natchitoches during segregation.

Johnson’s work is still alive in Natchitoches through the Ben D. Johnson Education Center, Legacy Youth Workforce Development Program and Legacy Café.

The Living Library event will take place in Kyser Hall 142, the Ora G. Williams Digital Media Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Leanna Coy

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