School honors MLK with dinner

Dr. Shaun R. Harper, keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King (MLK) Dinner on Thursday, Feb. 7, addressed students about disparities of African-Americans in higher education.

Harper centered his speech around his dream to produce front runners, or what Martin Luther King Jr. liked to call “drum majors” for social justice and social change.

“I’ve just come by here to tell you that there is a reason for hope,” he said.

Harper began his presentation with a video excerpt from the documentary “Black in White America.”

It demonstrated the negative stigma young African Americans carry, both knowingly and unknowingly, regarding their race.

Another video entitled “Sparkling Wiggles,” found on, was used as an example to demonstrate how language can be used as an oppressive tool.

Harper expressed his view on the ineffectiveness of universities to educate students on the issues of racism.

“Many in higher education would rather not deal with it,” he said. He suggests that
universities “dialogue about preparing students for effectiveness in a diverse democracy.”

Harper used Sen. Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign as the foundation for his vision. His hope is that his vision for social education will ignite change in others.

Harper is an Assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is best known for his research on African-American male students at colleges and universities.
He has received many awards for his work, including the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ (NASPA) Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation of the Year Award for the year of 2004.

The MLK Dinner, hosted by the African American Heritage Committee and Haraya the Pan African Coalition, began at 6:30 p.m. in Marillac Cafeteria.

The tables were adorned with black red and green decorations representing the colors of the African flag.

The ceremony commenced with a prayer lead by Michael Matthews, treasurer of Haraya, followed by a praise dance by dance group “Sinai’s Radiance.”

Chris Godfrey, education chairman of Haraya, delivered the eminent “I Have a Dream” speech by the late Martin Luther King Jr. He introduced the pouring of the water ceremony in remembrance of the African American ancestors who made contributions to black history.

The St. John’s University Voices of Victory Choir lead the guests in the song “Lift Every Voice.”

Dressed in African garb, they also performed an African piece entitled “Be Like Him.”

Darren Morton, assistant vice president of Student Affairs, led a formal prayer, preceding Chris Godfrey’s formal welcome address on behalf of Haraya, before the introduction of the speaker.

The evening ended with dinner provided by Sarah Brown’s Soul Food catering.