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University of Georgia alumni and current faculty tell the story of resilience that arose from the founding of Pamoja by Pastor Nawanna Lewis Miller in "WHEN THE DOGS LEFT", a documentary on civil rights, journalism, performing arts and how "Pamoja" (Swahili for 'together') brought people together.

As the nation embarks on revisiting it's history of freedom over the Fourth of July Weekend, the untold story embedded in "When the Dogs Left" gives a glimpse of what it takes to "let freedom ring."

ATHENS, Ga. - GeorgiaChron -- Posted Courtesy of Wright Enterprises San Francisco~Dallas Community Spotlight~~~

The story of the desegregation of the University of Georgia (UGA) focuses on the year 1961, when amid a firestorm of racism and national media attention, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault desegregated UGA.  While many people and historians are familiar with the former, less than ten years later in 1970, a young Nawanna Lewis emerged as a civil rights visionary to combat the then still present anti-Black sentiment on that same campus.

The story of Nawanna Miller (née Lewis) reverberates through five (5) decades.  In founding Pamoja, she gave Black students some semblance of home, all while she strategically participated in sit-ins that helped to reshape the face of UGA faculty and student body.

Currently, UGA alumni and faculty work together to historically and cinematically produce a documentary cataloging the 50 years of civil liberties, performing arts, and journalism that has enriched the campus, community, and culture of the University.

"When The Dogs Left" explores the life of UGA student Nawanna Lewis, who graduated from the same Henry McNeal Turner High School as Holmes and Hunter.  She recalls, "Growing up in Atlanta during the Civil Rights Movement was everything to me. Everything!  Atlanta's slogan, 'The City too busy to hate,' impacted me. I thought everyone really felt that way."  Disillusioned, realizing not much had changed since '61, young Nawanna sensed the void, and soon the "togetherness" that was absent materialized with the founding of Pamoja (Swahili for "together").

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Pamoja gave Black students an opportunity to join together, expressing their culture in dance, theatre, journalism, and choir that included music by Black composers who had never been heard of at UGA.  The battle ground for equity was a stage, a newspaper column, a magazine article, and weapons of peace were a pen, a script, and a mic in hand.

Right in Creswell Hall, Nawanna wrote the vision for Pamoja Singers, Pamoja Dancers, Journalism Association for Minorities (JAM), the Pamoja Newspaper, and Pamoja Drama and Arts.  Over time the names changed respectively to African American Choral Ensemble (AACE), Pamoja Dance Company (PDC), National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), InfUSion Magazine; Larry Calhoun (another H. M. Turner High School graduate) continued the spirit of Pamoja when he founded the Black Theatrical Ensemble (BTE) in the late 1970's.  TOGETHER they are all collectively known as "Pamoja Connections."

"When The Dogs Left" reveals interwoven stories and personal accounts of students across time.  Many alumni, some who are now well into their 70's, credit Pamoja with their occupation, career success, and their general sanity while navigating the predominately white campus life and faculty of UGA. "As an AACE member, those songs of deliverance helped me cope in my 300+ lecture classes where very few faces looked like mine.  Pamoja Connections gave me a profound sense of belonging, something familiar, something to anchor my soul when bigotry tried to make me pack up and leave," said Beauty Muñoz, class of '97.

After founding Pamoja, Nawanna became known as the Mistress of Cultural Affairs for the Black Student Union. She graduated in three (3) years, earning a Degree in Broadcast Journalism.  She went on to obtain her Master of Arts in Organizational Communication, and later a Master of Divinity from Howard University.  She has become a celebrated author and one of the pioneering first female pastors in the Baptist Church, continuing to make game-changing advancements for equity and inclusion for women in the American church. "It was the Spirit that moved me to create a space for what I didn't see at the University of Georgia.  Over 50 years later, the same Spirit rallies the support of President Jere Morehead, Deputy Chief of Staff Alton Standifer, faculty members Jay Hamilton, Keith Wilson, Tom Hiel, Dodie Cantrell-Bickley, and Gregory Broughton; along with Pamoja Connections members Beauty Muñoz, Subrena Clark, Jackie Wright, and Felicia Bessent; and recent UGA grads Tevon Knight and Nick Hayward; all of these incredible UGA Faculty and alumnae give a resounding voice to the historical narrative that impacts the present," said Pastor Nawanna Lewis Miller.

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"This story of challenge, persistence and celebration will inform, enlighten, and uplift people throughout the country and abroad. This is an outward facing project with the goal of screening around the world wherever people are interested in history, civil rights, equity, and the arts," said Professor Jay Hamilton, Head of the Department of Entertainment & Media Studies, University of Georgia.  "Fifty-two years later the panorama of Pamoja has grown and expanded to embrace the inclusion of so many diverse cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, and backgrounds truly representing the togetherness for which it was founded."

To discover more about this documentary and how to help add to the annals of history, email PamojaConnections@yahoo.com and visit www.PamojaConnectionsInc.org.

For more information on Pastor Nawanna Lewis Miller, click the following interview links:

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