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LETTER: Positive celebration is newsworthy

Wednesday night, two events were held on Grounds that related to the Black community. The first was a protest in response to a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer for Eric Garner’s death. The second was a pre-Kwanzaa celebration held in Newcomb Hall sponsored by the Black Leadership Institute in conjunction with the Office of African American Affairs. Both events were important. Both events had a place here at the University.

The one headline that appeared in today’s Cavalier Daily was, “'We Can't Breathe': Students, community members stage protest against race-based brutality – Demonstrators traversed Mad Bowl, libraries, Carr's Hill to reach wide set of University community.” But, a second story should have been written about the unity that flowed through the Black Leadership Institute’s pre-Kwanzaa celebration. It was newsworthy, too.

There are many ways people choose to address important issues like bias and violence in our world. We can advocate, educate, agitate and legislate. All can lead to positive change. But, one of the most important things we can do is examine our own personal values. Last night, our entire University community was given an opportunity to attend a positive, unifying, and uplifting program that focused on the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration, from December 26th to January 1st, that honors Black culture. Those of us who attended the pre-Kwanzaa event last night had an opportunity to re-examine our own personal values and our roles in society.

University Alumna, Candra Parker, provided an inspiring keynote speech to our diverse audience, while several prominent Black student organizations discussed each of the seven Kwanzaa principles. The student presentations were particularly powerful and relevant in light of the challenges we continue to face as a University and world community. We concluded with a traditional Harambee ceremony and unity circle.

I choose to believe that people are more decent than not, our minds are more open than not, and our University community is more united than not. I also believe that we are mature enough to respect our respective challenges, means of expression, and differences. Our pre-Kwanzaa celebration was an invitation to everyone to do just that. I hope even more members of the University community will join us at future Black Leadership Institute events. That’s why we are here, right? To grow in knowledge and experience from one another. In the words of Mr. Jefferson, “Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.”

Sydney Shavers

Program Coordinator

Black Leadership Institute

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