Malcolm/King Awards Breakfast Celebrates African-American History and Culture

Malcolm/King Awards Breakfast Celebrates African-American History and Culture

Malcolm/King Awards Breakfast Celebrates African-American History and Culture

John Jay College proudly hosted the 29th annual Malcolm/King Awards Breakfast on February 22, 2019. The annual award ceremony celebrates and honors the mission set forth by Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of peace, equality, and freedom, and highlights the talent, determination, and success of John Jay students. “That’s the main reason why we’re here today, to uplift our next generation of leaders,” said Karol V. Mason, President of John Jay. “Your academic and professional success is one of my greatest goals. It’s our job to guide you and show you the way to fulfil your dreams. But remember, once you climb up that ladder, send it back down for the next generation.”

President Mason inspiring the crowd
President Mason inspiring the crowd

Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Ph.D., Chair of the Africana Studies and Malcolm/King Awards Breakfast Committee commented that she was, “Proud to say that we’re the longest standing, continually running cultural event at John Jay College.” The event included moving songs from East Coast Inspiration and remarks from Yvonne Purdie, Director of Undergraduate Student Services in the Department of Public Management; honoree Rubie Malone, Ph.D., former Assistant Vice President of Strategic Planning and Assessment, and Faculty Emerita; keynote speaker Inez Barron, New York City Council Member and Chair of the Higher Education Committee; and closing remarks from Ilyasah Shabazz, Adjunct Professor, author, and daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. 

East Coast Inspiration singing the Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice And Sing”
East Coast Inspiration singing the Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice And Sing”

“Ms. Purdie” introduced Malone speaking straight from her heart. “Dr. Malone is an awesome woman, she is my friend, my mentor, my blessing. Offering me encouragement when I needed it, a come-to-Jesus talk when I didn’t want to hear it, and a meal at Thanksgiving so I wouldn’t be alone,” said Purdie. “I, like so many others in this room and beyond, have stood and continue to stand on her shoulders. She comes into everyone’s life and leaves an imprint on your heart that never goes away.”

Rubie Malone uplifting the room with her words
Rubie Malone uplifting the room with her words

“This breakfast is so significant because it keeps alive the outstanding work and impact of two great men in our American society, Malcolm X and Dr. King.” —Rubie Malone

Malone talked about the importance of keeping a dream alive and creating a solid foundation for those that come after us. “This breakfast is so significant because it keeps alive the outstanding work and impact of two great men in our American society, Malcolm X and Dr. King. You know, it’s not easy to know sometimes how far reaching our work goes. We just commit ourselves and do the work.” She added, “Just as Dr. King had a dream, so did those African-Americans who joined the faculty and staff at John Jay College 50 years ago. They envisioned a higher-education institution where large numbers of students, who otherwise would have been shut out of the American system, could matriculate, earn a degree, and move into the American society at all levels.”

Malone spoke of her years at John Jay and the joy of seeing not only students grow, but faculty and staff come together in the interest of the community. “How could we know, with all that work done, that years later we would proudly welcome the first African-American, and first female president of this institution, Karol Mason,” said Malone. That’s indicative of a solid foundation, she noted saying that when you lay a structurally sound foundation, whatever is built upon is, will last.

Barron talked of the importance of telling African history from a strength-based perspective
Barron talked of the importance of telling African history from a strength-based perspective

“Our origins aren’t in slavery. Our origins are in Africa, the seat of civilization, of human consciousness.” —Inez Barron 

In order to ensure the work continues, there must be an acknowledgement of the past. During her keynote speech, Barron told the audience of how important it for educators to talk about African history and for that message to come from a strength-based perspective. “For so long, our history was not told,” said Barron. “We need to make sure our history is told. This country would not be what it is today were it not for the uncompensated labor of the Africans that were stolen from Africa and brought here.” She added, “As we talk about our history, we shouldn’t just start where we are. It was John Henrik Clarke who said, ‘if you start your history in slavery, everything looks like progress.’ But our origins aren’t in slavery. Our origins are in Africa, the seat of civilization, of human consciousness.” 

A former elementary school teacher, Barron recounted a story on how she taught her fifth grade class about their roots using rap music. “I was a teacher in elementary school. The year I taught fifth grade was the year rap was becoming popularized,” said Barron. “I said, ‘Why don’t we see how we can use this median to bring about some consciousness about our history.’ And the students said, ‘Oh, Ms. Barron, you can’t do that.’” She took that as a challenge and by the end of the week had a rap that explored all the rich ways Africans have cultivated and given rise to culture, education, and civilization.

Ilyasah Shabazz gives her closing remarks
Ilyasah Shabazz gives her closing remarks

When Shabazz, took the stage to give her closing remarks she told the audience of her mother asking her to accompany her to the very first Malcolm/King Awards Breakfast. “It was the beginning of my admiration for John Jay College,” Shabazz said. “It was an environment that recognized the camaraderie between my father and Dr. King, before it was popular to do so.” Shabazz added, she was inspired by her student’s dreams and said “It is an honor for me to both serve as an Adjunct Professor and contribute to this institution’s mission to produce young bold, leaders.”

More Scenes from the event:

Inez Barron and Jessica Gordon-Nembhard
Inez Barron and Jessica Gordon-Nembhard

John Jay students keeping the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X alive
John Jay students keeping the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X alive

McNair Scholars with their mentor Ernest Lee, Ph.D. (far left)
McNair Scholars with their mentor Ernest Lee, Ph.D. (far left)

A ceremony to remember our ancestors
A ceremony to remember our ancestors

Rubie Malone receiving a special gift
Rubie Malone receiving a special gift

Uplifting music from East Coast Inspiration
Uplifting music from East Coast Inspiration

Malcolm King winner Natalie Massimi delivering her message
Malcolm King winner Natalie Massimi delivering her message

Malcolm King winner Ronnette Cox speaking to the crowd
Malcolm King winner Ronnette Cox speaking to the crowd

Malcolm King winners Dillon Epperson and Ronnette Cox
Malcolm King winners Dillon Epperson and Ronnette Cox

Malcolm King winner Natalie Massimi and her mother Emilia Massimi
Malcolm King winner Natalie Massimi and her mother Emilia Massimi

Malcolm King winners Nia Daniels and Kaileah Gaynor
Malcolm King winners Nia Daniels and Kaileah Gaynor

This past month John Jay College has celebrated the rich contributions African-Americans have made to this country. In honor of Black History Month our students have gathered for “power lunches”, listened to inspiring poetry by authors, discussed current events affecting the African-American population, honored African-American psychologists throughout history, and enjoyed the music of the Harlem Chamber Players. As a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and Minority Serving Institution (MSI), we hope to continue these important discussions and events, embracing African-American heritage throughout the year.

Learn more about our Malcolm/King Award Winners: