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Exclusive: Activist Angela Davis Attends SUNY Oswego as Keynote Speaker for Martin Luther King, JR. Celebration

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Oswego chapter.

This past Wednesday, SUNY Oswego celebrated it’s 33rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration event, featuring keynote speaker Angela Davis. The event took place in Tyler Hall, waterman theater from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. The auditorium was filled with students dressed in all Black to honor the legendary activist. The celebration also included performances by SUNY Oswego’s Gospel Choir, student solo performances by Anyi Hernandez who sang, “I Was Here”,  and spoken word titled ‘Melanated Daydreaming’, by Rickey Strachan. All rose, including Dr. Davis herself, for the Black national anthem, better known as “Lift Every Voice and Sing” sung by choir leader, and student, Kamal Morales. The event also included student introductions by host, Gabby Golfo, Student Association President, Takayla Beckon, and speaker introduction by Ziyah Myers. 

When Dr. Davis spoke, everyone listened. There were many times where the crowd would clap or agree in unison about the things she said. She discussed the manifestation of slavery and its long lasting effects on the entire hemisphere, political development, and most importantly: The emphasis of change. “You’re not encouraged to do collective work, you are encouraged to do collaborative work,”said Dr. Davis in a private meet and greet. After the keynote address, there was an intimate meet and greet with students, faculty, and student media press to engage and ask the activist more questions. I had the opportunity to be amongst this group, and asked her this question: 

“Based on where we are now, what do you hope for the current and future generation to understand about political development?”

Her Response: “All we can ever really do, is make sure that coming generations pick up where we are. You are amongst the youngest generation now, but there will come a time where you are among the older generation. It’s your responsibility to guarantee that this does not stop with you. That it continues.”

She adds 

“On a campus like this? While doing the work, make sure you’re also always mentoring someone younger than you. Because campus generations go by really quickly, you have to make sure that the next generations of students on this campus and workers on this campus continue what you’ve started.”

Another student, Dennis Molina, Director of Programming of The Latin Student Union, Class of 2024, asked her this:

“How do we move away from trauma? How do we recognize our own potential, and reject an inferiority complex that has been ingrained in us as colored people, as immigrants, and as second class people in a university, and country that was not founded with our interest in mind? How do we maintain positivity to ensure the upward mobility in our gith for equity and social peace?”

Her Response: “A lot of the time, the questions are a lot more important than the answers.” The crowd murmured in agreement. “It’s often not possible to get an answer in one minute. It requires deep thinking — so multiple answers. I would also point out that there’s some questions that don’t have packed answers. Questions that have to be answered in the process of trying to respond to the question. Questions that have to be answered through practice, through getting involved, and trying to figure it out as you move along.”

“Oftentimes the answers come when you get involved in doing the work. As you start experimenting, you keep doing it. That’s what the whole quest for Black liberation is. That we try for so long to reform the police. I was a teenager fighting against racist police violence. Then there comes a point where you realize that it’s not going to happen. Sometimes you need a while to arrive at the answer, but we have to keep searching and to try and figure it out.”

After the gathering, we posed together for a group photo and other students spoke with her intimately. As for other students, they left the meeting room feeling empowered and embarked in conversations about key takeaways from the activist’s response.

All in all, this day was intended for us to understand this: Change is something that will not happen if you do not put in the work to make it happen. Change is collaborative, it is crucial. Change never stops. 

“Change. Living Change. Continued Change.”

  • Rickey Strachan, Line from “Melanated Daydreaming”

How are you and what will you do to contribute to making a change? 

Briana K. Boateng is a section writer for Her Campus Magazine! She is senior with a major in Broadcasting and Mass Communications. She aspires to become an on-air talent, so anywhere that ranges from hosting, interviewing, anchoring, etc. Some of Briana's hobbies include eating out, watching interviews, as well as reading lifestyle articles. Being a part of Her Campus magazine enables her to enhance her experience as a broadcast journalist, expand her skills in writing, and as well as sharing, connecting, and inspiring her woman peers on the SUNY Oswego campus. Essentially, this is the purpose of this magazine: To empower other woman!