Jamaican Heritage Society Hears Speaker

Funding was allocated for renowned lecturer Mark Mathabane to speak in a Jamaican Heritage Society sponsored seminar, Student Government, Inc. decided at their meeting held Monday evening in Council Hall.

The event, entitled ìSurviving During Apartheid and Discovering the Importance of Education,î will be held at 7 p.m. in the U.C. Lounge Feb. 27, and will cap off the celebration of Black History Month.

Mathabane is a professional speaker who has appeared at over 50 colleges and universities throughout the country. He has lowered his usual $10,000 fee to $3,000.

A native of Alexandra, South Africa, Mathabane gained notoriety with his 1987 bestseller Kaffir Boy, the autobiographical account of his struggles growing up under the oppressive apartheid segregation system. Mathabane was the eldest of seven children living on $10 a week wages in a one-square-mile ghetto that 200,000 South Africans called home.

Thanks to education, open-mindedness, and a tennis scholarship, Mathabane was able to escape apartheid and the hatred that governed the first 18 years of his life.

Mathabaneís dedication to overcoming racial differences and his emphasis on education as the path to freedom have made him one of the most popular contemporary speakers.

Jamaican Heritage Society president Kamillah Dawkins was present at the meeting to speak on behalf of approving funding for the lecture.

ìIím really excited, because Iíve been to one of his lectures before at the New York Institute of Technology,î she said. ìHe gives you a personal experience of the struggle he went through growing up during apartheid and how he overcame not only the struggle but also he grew up to not hate anyone.

ìHeís seen his father beaten up and people killedÖyet he has no hate in his heart, and I think thatís something thatís very important to portray on this campus.î

Mathabane has written several other books describing the struggles and hardships facing South Africans both during and shortly after apartheid. He was also nominated for the Speaker of the Year Award by the National Association for Campus Activities.

Dawkins added that the date of the lecture, Feb. 27, was of utmost importance.

ìI wanted him to end the month because he draws so many people and heís a very important person,î she said. ìI wanted Black History Month to end with [a] bang.î

In other news, SGI voted in favor of creating the Research and Development Committee, co-chaired by Christopher Coes and Shelly Garcia, with the purpose of consolidating all the needs of the students.

ìCurrently, Student Government, Inc. has several focus groups ñ food, Public Safety, ARAMARK, library, academicÖbut often times thereís just nothing being done,î Coes said. ìRight now Research and Developmentís main focus is to make Student Government more proactive as to how studentsí concerns are being pushed.î

The committee will also assist in the creation of questionnaires and the surveying of other colleges and universities to provide organizations that meet with school administrators with information, helping them make proposals and set up solutions instead of merely expressing concerns.

ìResearch and Development will be involved in benchmarking other schools and collecting data and basically formulating action plans for the Student Government,î Coes said. ìThis is the target goal of this committee ñ for Student Government to properly represent the students of St. Johnís University.î

Finally, SGI reinstated the Legal Society, formerly the Paralegal Society, after two years on hiatus. The organization was disbanded due to a lack of leadership, but has been reorganized under moderator Professor Bernard Helldorfer and society president Kap Misir.

Possible events include guest speakers, LSAT and law school preparation, discussions of current issues, and field trips to courtrooms in Queens.

ìThis is a networking type of society,î Misir said. ìWeíre trying to interact with graduates from St. Johnís who are in the legal field right now.î

Anyone with an interest in legal studies is welcome to join the society, and should contact Prof. Helldorfer for more information.