The humanities is about embracing respect, dignity, understanding,
and forgiveness among people of different cultures, races and religions.
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Message from the Executive Director

posted Apr 19 2017 2:08 PM

Dear MJCHF Supporters,

We continue to see excitement occurring on a daily basis at the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities (MJCH®). In less than two years, the center has hosted more than 4,000 visitors at our many events. The mission of MJCH is to remove barriers that hinder individuals and groups from realizing their aspirations and full potential.

The engagement of our youth is occurring at all ages and involving all Madison County schools in various ways. The partnership with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), Office of the Madison County Regional Superintendent, and Lewis and Clark Community College is vibrant!

Read more about the many exciting programs we have underway:

Major programming includes:

1. Conversation Toward a Brighter Future

Conversation Toward a Brighter Future encourages high school and middle school students to engage in dialogue and decision-making regarding issues that impact their communities and school districts. Each school was awarded a $5,000 fellowship to implement their projects. This program supports the center’s overall mission of promoting mutual understanding and respect among people of different cultures, races, and religions. Our country is becoming more diverse, yet increasingly polarized. There is a failure on all levels to talk and listen with open minds and consistent civility. Our schools are a micro-representation of this country, and now more than ever, our youth are positioned to lead our country in planning and directing generations to come.

Click Here to learn more about the Conversation Toward a Brighter Future Program

2. STEM Initiative

Former Astronaut Leland Melvin

In March 2017, MJCH kicked-off STEM initiative with a visit from a former NASA Astronaut, Leland Melvin.  The Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities, Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), Madison County Housing Authority, and Lewis & Clark Community College are partnered to bring this program to the area to ensure that all Metro-East youth will have an opportunity to develop scientific literacy and pursue STEM careers.

Astronaut Leland Melvin addressed 700 high school students from Venice, Madison and Granite City regarding the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Leland Melvin

Melvin encouraged the students to not shy away from the difficult classes of STEM. He discussed the numerous hurdles he faced during his career and how he stayed focused on his goal. Injuries thwarted his professional football career, then an injury to his ear while performing under water training for NASA left him partially deaf. Melvin overcame these setbacks, and reminded the students no circumstances or conditions should prevent them from reaching their goals.

To view more photos from the event, please click here to visit our Flickr page. 


STEM for GirlsStem for GirlsThe MJCH launched its STEM for GIRLS program in 2016. This two-year STEM project targets minority, elementary age girls living in low-income housing. The first phase brought hands-on learning to 20 girls in order to increase their interest and self-confidence in STEM.

The program emphasizes the connections between STEM topics and the humanities. Read more about the hands-on learning these children received.


Please click here to learn more about the STEM for Girls Program.

4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar provides insight, advice to local students

Kareem and StudentsNBA legend, author and humanitarian Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Steve Savard, Channel 4 News Anchor were special guests at the Mannie Jackson Center for Humanities’ Second Annual Dinner and Fundraiser. Abdul-Jabbar addressed 50 high school athletes regarding the importance of a quality education and the role they play in facilitating positive social change across this nation.

Read More about the event here

“When I went to college, I made the determination that I was going to leave with a degree and I did and it served me well. I’m going to tell you right now what you do in the classroom is going to last. There are a lot of athletes in this room, I know that. I am not telling you to stop following your athletic aspirations, but don’t let that be the only thing that you excel at. Academics are worth your while,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “Knowledge is power… Just remember that.” [Source: The Telegraph]

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaking at the MJCHFGrowing up in Harlem, New York, Abdul-Jabbar said his family, especially his grandmother, helped him understand the importance of an education at a young age.

“Your education is going to take you as far as you would like to go,” he said. “If I had totally relied on being an athlete, I would not be here speaking because I would have not known what to do well enough,” said Abdul-Jabbar. [Source:]

Donors provided tickets for one male and one female athlete, along with their coaches, from each high school in Madison County, the Edwardsville High School boys' and girls' basketball teams and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville basketball players and coaches.

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Steve Savard talk respect, social change at MJCHF Dinner

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Steve SavardDuring the after dinner question and answer session between Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Steve Savard, with 460 people in attendance, a quality education remained the primary topic.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told the room full of guests that we must get involved with our children’s lives.

 “Do not let athletic aspirations be the only thing young people excel at. You must have an education to have the wherewithal and means to succeed. Stick with it and never give up,” said Abdul-Jabbar.

During the after dinner Question/Answer session between Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Steve Savard, Abdul-Jabbar stated it is time for all people to reach “across the aisle, across town, across the inter-religious differences and come together to create positive change and lasting breakthroughs.”

Kareem Adbul-Jabbar with attendees of the MJCFH Dinner

“Take every opportunity you can to reach out to people. It is really a time to reach out across the aisle, across town, across inter-religious differences and come together to decide what’s right and wrong and move forward the best way,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “When you can start conversations like that problems get solved. It always happens. It takes a while but if you have the patience to listen and express your side with respect and not with anger, we start to breakthrough and make progress,” said Abdul-Jabbar. [Source: The Intelligencer]

He continued, “When you encounter something that makes you angry, your anger is not unjustified. But you can’t talk about those things and be angry. You have to talk about those things and be concerned. You have to let people know what your concerns are, and not just of your anger because we can get pretty angry about stuff, especially stuff that happens to us or our friends or the bad things that happen in our community and we might want to strike out.” [Source:]

“It’s important to listen to the other side if true progress is going to be made in any situation. You’ve got to get rid of the anger and communicate your concerns and you have to have the patience to listen to the other side because the other side has concerns, too. And more often than not, those concerns are legitimate,” he said.

On his activism and building a positive dialogue amidst disagreements:

"When you encounter something that makes you angry, your anger is not unjustified. Bad things will make you angry, but you have to talk about those things and be concerned and let people know your concerns and not the depth of your angers. Intelligent conversations with people who can help you can, and will, change things.” [Source:]

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with local studentsAbdul-Jabbar’s new book, a memoir entitled “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50 Year Friendship On and Off the Court” is set to be released in May. When he is not writing, Abdul-Jabbar works to bring about both political and social change as he was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by former President Barack Obama in November. [Source: The Intelligencer]

On receiving his Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama:

“It was a big thrill. It was very nice to be honored by President Obama. Despite all the hostility and resistance he had toward his presidency, he did an awesome job and I’m proud of the work he did.” [Source:]

To view more photos from the event, please click here to view the Flickr album

6. The MJCHF received the National Recreation Foundation Trustee Grant 

A special thanks goes out to Board Member Elsie McCabe for her assistance in securing a grant for MJCHF - the National Recreation Foundation Trustee Grant. The grant that will be used to develop the next generation of change-agents who will learn to transform their communities through effective physical activity, problem solving, team building, and enhanced access to STEM education.

The National Recreation Foundation Trustee Grant will provide needed funds for low-income youth to participate in activities and programs that they would not engage in otherwise. All resources are directed toward improving the academic performance and social-emotional wellness of area youth from low income, under-represented communities.



Facility Rental

With three conference rooms ranging in size from 60 to 140 people and full service catering available, the MJCH is a great venue for your event, gathering or program. Fill out the form and we will reach out to you.



1210 North Main Street, Edwardsville, IL