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The following is an Op-Ed from the University of Central Oklahoma’s Black Student Association President, Keyanna Irby.
In this photo taken Jan. 18, 2017, President Barack Obama speaks during his final presidential news conference, in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. The former president and Michelle Obama announced Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, they have picked The Harry Walker Agency to handle their post-White House speaking gigs. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
For over 200 years the African-American community has been enslaved physically, set free, tortured, beaten, given rights, enslaved institutionally – the cycle goes on and on.
Civil Rights leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B Du Bois, Asa Phillip Randolph, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Clara Luper and many more have fought so hard for our rights today.
We’ve accomplished so much as a community and as a country and if it wasn’t for those selfless and dedicated individuals we wouldn’t be as far in life as we are right now.
In November 2008, America witnessed its very first African-American president and family in the White House: the Obamas.
Barack reminded us that his being elected wasn’t merely enough; with his campaign slogans on the heart of many proactive African-American leaders, we were awakened from our slumber of complacency.
It was time for a change.
Obama ignited the same fire in our generation that Dr. King ignited in our parents and grandparents. No longer can we sit back and wait for change but as it has been said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
We all have the power to see a problem and put forth our best efforts to fix what is wrong while benefiting many and not just ourselves.
So when asked what does “what’s next?’ mean to me, I say non-stop change and betterment for all.
Change calls for action, passion and determination and in order for there to be an uprising of people who have these qualities. They need support from family, friends and mentors.
At UCO the Black History Month task force had a combination of all these prerequisites and together we all created events to grab the attention of the campus and community through educational and celebratory measures.
“What’s next?” has an optimistic connotation associated with it and shows that we are ready for whatever tomorrow may bring.
We are not fearful of tomorrow and we are preparing for a better life for all to live, thrive and succeed. It is also a reminder that there is always improvement and work to be done. We must take small and smart steps so that we are efficient and effective in the works that we do.
I believe that one of the most impactful strides that we’ve made leading up to Black History Month 2017 at UCO has been the Clara Luper Room in the Nigh University Center that will be revealed and open for viewing next Friday, Feb. 24 on the third floor, Room 312 at 2 p.m.
This revealing is open to the community because we want everyone to witness the greatness that has taken place to honor such a deserving civil rights activist, who led the first sit-in at the Katz drug store in downtown Oklahoma City.
This not only pays homage to the incredible work she has done in history, but is now a part of UCO history, giving students of color a sense of belonging on this campus.
I’m so grateful to attend a university that cares so much about me and the needs of minorities as much as every other student.
Every single day that we’re blessed to wake up and see the sun shine we have the choice to make a difference or to simply do nothing.
That’s exactly what message we wanted to send through our Black History Month programming. We’ve overcame so much in the Black community and we still are, but “what’s next?”
The Black Student Association at UCO prides itself on loving all people and I know that is the same for all our fellow Bronchos. I know that we will set the example for everyone else to see.
Watch out for what we have up next.