Thursday, January 26, 2017

MLK Celebration: Part Two - MLK Essays and Fania Davis

Yesterday was a fantastic day, although 14 hours days are always a little challenging. The evening, however, was capped off during the MLK Vision Awards, Convocation, and MLK Essay Contest which offered more pep to the step and rhythm to the purpose for the work so many of us do.

Time doesn't allow for me to develop my thinking as much as I'd like to here, but I wish to highlight the memorable experience of meeting Dr. Fania Davis who offered the Convocation Address an insight to her work on restorative justice, taking action, and empowering youth. At one point in her conversation she outlined the principals of Ubuntu, "I am, because we are," as central to the mission of her work. I kept wondering, "Will others think the two of us know one another?" We didn't/don't, but I introduced myself after the talk and shared the work of Ubuntu Academy at Fairfield University and our community partnerships with immigrant and refugee youth in the area.

Dr. Davis's work is the result of her childhood in "Bombingham, Alabama" (Birmingham) where she and her family endured the killing and threats by a White America set on stopping equality and equity in the lives of Black families. It moved to her lifelong mission of promoting freedom for her sister, Angela Davis, and coming to terms with global histories tied intimately with economic powers and hate. In her work, she came to Ubuntu as a circular philosophy requiring the input of many, rather than the totalitarianism of a few. Her research demonstrates the impact restorative philosophies have had on drop out rates in Oakland schools, and the need to rethink the scales of justice that criminalize the already criminalized, to enhance potential in a democratic system.

It was also a pleasure to see the 2017 MLK Vision Awards going to my colleague, Dr. Paul Lakeland, an inspiration, Dr. Ophelia Rowe-Allen, and my student, Anmol Tabassum. These individuals were recognized for bringing the spirit and hope to Fairfield University in ways similar to Dr. Martin Luther King.

I met Anmol Tabassum when she was a student at Bassick High School and when she participated in a partnership program during her senior year. She took two English courses with me and I knew then that she was driven for a life of promoting fairness for all. It is amazing to see how far she's come over the last four years and where she stands today with our Fairfield community and drive for excellence. She is extremely deserving of the recognition.

Early in the night, too, I had an honor with Sonya Huber to name this year's MLK Essay contest winners, four young people who were selected from over 100 entries. Perhaps their insight was the greatest hope arriving from yesterday's festivities, as they shared stories of the discouragement they've overcome, the impact Dr. Martin Luther King had on their lives, and the wisdom family members and friends offered them. Reading selections from the essays served to refuel the fight for what is good and right. Their generation deserves the applause.

Most of today will be spent preparing for tonight's radio show and tomorrow's Youth Leadership Academy, and I know I will find the energy after being inspired so greatly yesterday. I cannot emphasize it enough: I love / to believe / in hope. Hope is all we have, even in what appears to be hopeless times.

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