A Call to Action
By: Emelia Lartey ’14
(Alumni Board Diversity and Inclusion, Marist College)
In our ever changing and complex world, it is vital that we defend truth and call out injustices in solidarity with our communities and families. As a member of the Marist College alumni board for Diversity and inclusion, I deemed it necessary to address the current state of our country for many diverse groups. In the age of the pandemic and police brutality, it’s more important than ever that we continue to champion and rally behind leaders who push and fight for a world more peaceful and just. In a world filled with conflict, uncertainty and strife, it is our shared values and commitment to fostering spaces of inclusion that allows us to stand up against the beasts of racism and prejudice.
In the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We are living in trying times and it’s important that we acknowledge and empower our communities of color. Throughout American history, African Americans have been subjected to grave injustices and structural violence. We can never be silent in the face of injustice. For such silence only serves to perpetuate the systems of inequality and injustice. Indeed, the great poet Maya Angelou once said, ”History despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again” These words ring true in our ever-changing world. We must have the courage to speak out and speak up in order to change our societies for the better.
This year would have marked the 8th anniversary of Mon Afrique, a celebration on campus that was a direct response to a campaign that tried to undermine and paint the African continent with one broad stroke. This formal gala presented by the Marist Blackout for African Awareness committee features African music, authentic African cuisine and speakers all aimed at celebrating Africa and understanding of the continent. As a freshman, fed up with arguing and trying to get people to understand the value of honoring the layered complexities of people’s stories, I walked up to Greystone after track practice and asked to speak to the president. During my meeting with the president, I expressed my experiences as a Ghanaian international student on campus and suggested strategies that could be implemented to further bring awareness about the lives of people from diverse backgrounds. At the time, it seemed like a huge undertaking, but with our collective effort and open hearts we were able to launch Mon Afrique boasting guests from the Asante royal families and speakers like Sangu Delle, a Harvard Law graduate and renowned entrepreneur named one of Forbes’ promising Entrepreneurs in Africa.
As we all know, on May 25, George Floyd, an African American man, died in Minneapolis whilst handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest at the hands of a white officer, Derek Chauvin. The time, 8 minutes and 46 seconds was the amount of time it took to rob a family and community of a father and a husband. His death was tragic and avoidable and a symptom of a society that accords little value to black lives. As a Marist College alum and a Ghanaian woman and most importantly a mother, I hope my words bring comfort to those who are healing. I feel the pain of our brothers and sisters who for far too long fight daily for the basic right to live and be seen and be heard.
In order to bring change, we must start in our own community. Earlier this morning, I read tweets from a Marist college student who used profane and derogatory words. We cannot and will not allow the actions of few to taint the progress that we are making daily as an institution. Marist is not perfect, but we will never ever tolerate bigotry and racism. It’s imperative that we champion and give power to the voices of our student groups making real change and standing for truth. I stand with all minority groups, but most importantly the Marist Black Student Union in condemning all hate speech. To paraphrase the words of the great Pan Africanist and Ghanaian President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed forces that keep us apart. We are the ones for whom we’ve been waiting for. Let’s get to work.