One word summarizes the voice and message of Tuesday night's speaker: Inspiration.
The Black Cultural Programming Committee invited magazine publisher, author, lecturer and social activist Susan L. Taylor for her contribution to the field of journalism and as a positive model for the black community. Taylor's presentation is part of the BCPC's 8th Annual Legends Lecture Series.
Brandy Maclin, junior in child and family studies and event coordinator for the BCPC, said the purpose for the Legends Series is to "celebrate the accomplishments of notable African-Americans and enhance public awareness for those accomplishments."
Raven Lewis, junior with a music interest, started the event by singing "The Black National Anthem" followed by Taria Person, senior in English, with Jeremiah Welch, cellist and junior in music, for a sung/spoken word performance.
Person performed a poetic tribute exalting Taylor's creativity, strength and inspiration as a black woman, repeating,
"Shorty, you're a queen to me. Mama, you're a queen to me."
Taylor addressed some of the most dire situations facing African-Americans today, including the facts that around 125,000 black males under the age of 18 are incarcerated, the leading cause of death among young black men is homicide, and the leading cause of death for young black women is AIDS.
Taylor came with a solution in mind: a call to nonviolent arms.
"Your education is a weapon," she explained.
Taylor gave an assignment to each person in the UC Auditorium: "Adopt a classroom that is struggling" in your community and donate at least one hour a week to tutoring and fostering a restoration in literacy into these schools. She emphasized that literacy opens the doors to the world and to the future, and that without these doors there are broken spirits and enslaved minds and bodies filling the profiteering racket in the prisons of America.
Taylor also discussed self-improvement, saying that if the inner self has not been given time to connect with the self that is frantically running around in this world, peace can never be attained.
She added that if peace is never reached, if the self does not give to itself before it gives itself away, change cannot be realized, nor can the fulfillment of "what you would want to do if you never had to earn a dime."
"Life is a calling," Taylor said. "We lose ground by believing we're not enough, such as the belief of being born into the wrong family. But we are more than what we see.
"Life makes no mistakes. Life is only trying to wake us up. We are too afraid to fall if we never learn if we can fly. We need to get quiet with ourselves in order to hear what is trying to be heard from a place of love and truth within. Only then can change, inside and out, be accomplished."
Tredarius Hayes, freshman in communications, was inspired to pursue his own passion and purpose as well as to inspire elementary students in his home town of Memphis by tutoring them in English, photography and journalism.
Welch, the cellist for the evening, was also motivated by Taylor's speech. Welch's own Sarah Moore Green Elementary School has a dropping literacy rate, he said.
"There's more than what they see at that age," Welch said.
Welch stated his plan to mentor there and at other schools requiring assistance in effectively teaching their students involves group reading and writing sessions. He would reward the students with a concert at the end of the week if the students earned a certain number of points. He said that the prospect of having something entertaining to reward hard work has great motivational power for students.
Houston Brown, freshman in finance, expressed more of a sentiment of personal fulfillment and gratitude "for the greatest gift, which is to choose, to find your passion," Brown said. "Embrace the persona of positivity. It makes life more appreciated and makes you want to fulfill your calling."