I often complain about going to Spelman, but when I see my sisters and brothers from the Atlanta University Center in leadership roles, making inspiring commentary and championing a cause, I can’t help but feel blessed to be in such a brilliant institution and surrounded daily by such amazing people.
DC was all a buzz as leaders from all over the country, including many AUC graduates, who held it down at the Congressional Black Caucus’ 37th Annual Legislative Conference. Under the theme "Unleashing Our Power," the ALC stood to promote positive change in the African American community. It also emphasized the importance of making prompt change to prepare African Americans for future advancements.
This year, the caucus had numerous brain trusts focusing on hip hop and its influence in the community. Intellectuals such as Michael Eric Dyson and James Peterson; Hip Hop social activists Benjamin Chavis and Valeisha Butterfield, and Democratic presidential nominees Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton all made an appearance.
Many of the hip hop themed panels seeked to foster a deeper understanding of hip hops roots and destination, using it as a means for positive change.
Valeisha Butterfield, CAU C’00, executive director of Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) sat on a number of panels confronting hip hop and its often misogynistic undertones. "It's important, especially as women executives, to take an active role in the way we're portrayed,” she said. “HSAN encourages women, and all people who support women, to join us to help create balance and give people options that are more positive choices to make when it comes to there selection of music in our society and the way we are portrayed."
I hear you Ms. Butterfield. Now I hope you were having those conversations with The Game while y’all were engaged. I’m just sayin'.
Asha Jennings, a former Spelman student who was integral in initiating the “Nelly Protest” also spoke on numerous panels. She insisted that students take the lead when they see something that negatively affects their community. "Campus activism has the power to bring change. It leads you into arenas were you can have discussions and put your knowledge in some kind of practical effect,” she said.
Ms. Jennings just finished law school and is back in the A. Go Asha!
Beverly Daniel Tatum, President of Spelman College, also encouraged undergraduate political involvement and protest. "Student activism is important because change is made by people. And students need to understand their own capacity for making change. Each of us has the opportunity to make a difference, but we have to be informed,” she said. She continued to add that attendance at the ALC is important for those who want to remain abreast with current legislative discussion. “"I'm here because I want to be informed [and secondly,] it's a great opportunity for me to meet with my congressional representatives and to talk to them about the needs of Spelman College and the in which they can be helpful.”
I love her.
But perhaps the most compelling AUCers were the Men of Morehouse. The popular "Making Education a Priority Again Among Black Males" discussion hosted a number of Morehouse former and present students. The schools current President, Robert M. Franklin, political activist Jesse Jackson, and others sat on the panel. "Leadership is in the room. It facilitates the mission of Morehouse and all HBCUs,” Franklin said. He also said that improved marketing strategies and incentives are desperately needed to encourage black males to continue their education. He also added that incarceration should not mean the end of ones access to education. "The prison can be the new incubator to turn around the toughest boys in the 'hood,"’ he said.
Many Morehouse students turned up for the discussion. "I came with the national Black College Alliance," said Omar Mohamed Abdillahi, C'09, who came to the caucus with a sizable group of current Morehouse students. Abdillahi added that he was eager to see Sen. Barack Obama. "There are such brilliant black men. I see black leaders every day," he said in contrast to comments one audience member made.
Ronald Holmes, Jr., C'07 and current staff assistant to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) also had positive remarks about the panel. "It's very good to see not only men of Morehouse, but the state of black America take part in the processes that affect their day to day lives."
I love me some Morehouse Men, even the ones I question (you know what I mean).