On Monday, January 12, I attended the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Campus Commemoration, sponsored by the African American Cultural Center, featuring Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry. Host of MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry,” Dr. Harris-Perry is a Professor of Politics and International Affairs as well as the Director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University. She is the author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. Throughout the commemoration event, I had the pleasure of assisting Dr. Harris-Perry and her best friend, Dr. Blair Kelley, Associate Professor of History and Assistant Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies and International Programs at NC State.
During her commemoration presentation, Dr. Harris-Perry captured the audience with her intellect, perspective, and charisma. From Emmett Till to Eric Garner, Dr. Harris-Perry discussed systematic oppression and its negative effects on the lives of African-American males in this country. Dr. Harris-Perry not only examined the issues plaguing African-American males, she provided proactive solutions to correcting these historical injustices. The “Be Creative” strategy resonated with me the most. Throughout history, African-Americans’ innovative spirits found effective strategies to: overcome slavery, receive basic human rights; and, vote. My ancestors have equipped me with the tools to defeat centuries of unjust treatment, and I feel I have the responsibility to transform those tools into strategies that will work for my community, today.
As an aspiring higher education professional, Dr. Harris-Perry highlighted the importance of social justice advocacy. College student activism, historically, has addressed many issues of injustice. However, the work is far from done. The effects of systematic oppression are still evident in the justice system as well as in the disparities of access, health, and wealth of African-Americans in this nation. As Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry stated, we must be creative in addressing these injustices, and remain proactive in our approach, by starting today.