Trent speaks at Longwood

Published 10:05 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sydney Trent, longtime Washington Post Social Issues Editor and goddaughter of Barbara Rose Johns, addressed community members and students at Longwood University Tuesday evening.

Trent was the keynote speaker for a series of events the university is holding throughout the week to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After Trent spoke, there was a question and answer portion where members of the audience asked questions about Trent, her career, experiencing racism in her own lifetime and about Barbara Johns. Joan Johns Cobbs, Barbara’s sister, answered a question about Barbara.

Trent, during her address, spoke about drawing inspiration from her family. She described how her grandfather, Vernon Johns and her first cousin once removed, Barbara Rose Johns, stood against racial injustice. Barbara, at 16, organized a student walk-out at Robert Russa Moton High School, the all-black high school at the time, to protest the unequal treatment Robert Russa Moton High School received compared with the all-white high school.

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Trent drew from sermons given by Vernon Johns and Dr. King to describe mountaintop imagination, a phenomenon she detailed as viewing the world, the United States’ racial history, and one’s circumstances from a high moral perspective, from a belief in what’s right that transcends the noise that can come from society. Trent spoke about how Barbara Rose and Dr. King used mountaintop imagination to enact change.

“How do we arrive there from where we are?” Trent asked the audience. “How can we find a way to rise above the times we are living in to see the truth, and find the guidance we need to elevate our minds and our hearts?”

Trent said viewing society’s injustices from a mountaintop perspective is necessary in current society, both to address racism rather than shirk its reality, and to seek justice through creative and brave solutions.

A full report of Trent’s address will be available online Thursday and in the Friday edition of the Herald.