By Malik Newson
Editor’s note: Malik Newson, junior in journalism and mass communication, attended the Freedom Fund banquet hosted by the Ames Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) on Feb. 17, 2017, with members of the Greenlee School Diversity Committee and several Greenlee students.
THE SOCIAL HOUR: Being invited to attend the Freedom Fund banquet hosted by the Ames Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was, in a word, amazing. It was a blessing to be selected to attend this banquet with some really good friends and faculty from Greenlee. I had classes with Pauli Escobedo and Dr. Michael Bugeja last semester so it was rather interesting to talk to them on a more personal level. And they are as sweet as ever. Dr. B and his wife Diane were adorable the whole night, telling us stories about how they met and their first date. I also got to see some friends of mine that I haven’t seen in while who are leaders of student organizations and also people of color.
THE BANQUET: We all sat around the table and conversed a little more about everything under the sun. I wanted to keep everything lighthearted because I don’t often get to be in settings like this with my mentors and inspirations. Then we said grace before getting some amazing food.
But to say I was there for the food would be doing a misdeed to the community I have worked so hard to improve upon. As a student of color, I feel like working hard comes naturally because I like to work hard. When I obtain success, I feel pride knowing that it was something that I accomplished. I’m not against accepting help, but I appreciate the times I can do something on my own. Nik Heftman, another student invited and a good friend of mine, asked Dr. B what he believes the key to success is. See, Dr. B was someone I saw and always wondered how I could do everything that he was doing and replicate a fraction of his success. He compared it to riding a bicycle. “In order to be truly successful,” Dr. B said, “you can’t simply slow down for others. In fact, don’t ever stop pedaling. Make them catch up to you.” He then praised the entire table for our success as an institution and how we all represent the school with grace and gusto.
Later, Dr. Reginald Stewart, Iowa State University’s Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and our keynote speaker, began to speak and the entire room was entranced by his speech. Dr. Stewart once led a TED Talk titled “Cultural (il)Literacy: What Modern America Needs to Know,” which is widely used as a teaching tool in both corporate and educational settings. The man spoke with so much power that it made me want to stand at attention to every word he said. He talked about how the world will not always be accepting to change, but it becomes our duty to make that change happen.
He also told a story about how he was on a two-hour plane ride and sat next to a man who was almost his polar opposite: a white military veteran. The two men began a discussion on diversity and equality. The white veteran then asked what Stewart’s occupation was and what that occupation means to him. He said being able to get students of color to strive for further education and employment makes him happy.
MY TAKEAWAY: Toward the end of the banquet, everyone was asked to get up and shout “I am NAACP” and that could have a million different meanings. To me, it means that I represent a culture and my family in everything that I do. I believe that this Black History Month was influential to my life experiences. I got on ISUtv. I give tours for the Greenlee School as a Greenlee Ambassador. I’m the public relations chair for my fraternity. To some, that sounds like a lot, but I don’t have any plans of stopping while I’m ahead. I am thankful for all of these experiences and know that they shaped my life. So thank you to Greenlee for choosing me to participate in this banquet. I am NAACP and so are all of you. You just needed someone to tell you.