From formidable former Black Panther Angela Davis’ powerful remarks to actor Terrence Howard’s unique call for students to follow their dreams, African-American Heritage Month speakers have become hot tickets on campus. Drawing inspiring and informative voices, the events hosted in February by Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interests (EBONI) are consistently as thoughtful and forward-thinking as our diverse student body aspires to be.
This year, EBONI has selected CNN anchor Don Lemon and John Bul Dau, a “lost boy” of Sudan to appear on campus. Just as director Lee Daniels offered inspiration in 2010 from the perspective of an African-American filmmaker in the LGBT community, both Lemon and Bul Dau’s stories speak to our human experiences beyond the simple color of their skin. By planning two major speakers this school year, we commend EBONI’s ambition and dedication to continuing this tradition.
On national, local, and campus levels, communities often struggle to amplify minority voices. A major responsibility of contemporary communicators and artists is to learn from the diversity that surrounds us—racial, sexual, cultural, and otherwise. In addition to his professional bona fides, Lemon’s experience reveals the nature of working as a gay African-American in the modern media landscape. Conversely, Bul Dau’s experience of trauma and injustice in Africa is something from which we all can learn.
We’re heartened by SGA’s support of this appeal, although some members needed to be convinced.
“I think appeals should be a last resort and I’m hesitant because your org didn’t fundraise,” said SGA Vice President Caitlin Higgins. “Personally, I would like to see you guys fundraise on your own rather than a sponsorship.”
The $18,280 price tag may seem costly, but EBONI has earned our trust as an organization that has delivered excellent results on this particular series of events. Furthermore, the organization cited nine co-sponsors including fellow student organizations and President M. Lee Pelton’s office. This is exactly the kind of event the entire college should proudly invest in, student body included.
As role models, Lemon and Bul Dau will lend prestige and complexity to our ongoing campus discussion of race. Furthermore, their visibility stands to boost the college’s profile as a diverse and inclusive community. We encourage EBONI to market this event effectively so it will match their previous efforts to engage more students in an important conversation.