By Evan Richardson ’14

Thank you JP. On behalf of the SMC Black Student Union, I am truly grateful to receive this award. But it is still an even greater honor for us to be the keepers of this award in reverence of Trailblazer Mary Ellen Pleasant. It is due to her courage, conviction, and commitment to the progress of Black Americans that we are here today. A pioneer who strived for equality and equity despite the opposition serves as a true inspiration. We as Black Americans enjoy much more today thanks to the deeds of brave individuals like her. We in the Black Student Union recognize alumni and trailblazers who have paved the way for us. Thank you for your dedication and sacrifice to future generations Mary Ellen!

And THAT in my opinion is what THIS NIGHT is all about. Leaving the world in better condition than when we found it. Supporting each other and PROGRESSING. But what is progress? In my mind I view progress as the advancement of individuals, people, culture, and society in realization of truth and love. But with an easier life, comes complacency and ungratefulness, some would argue. That is why we honor our ancestors and recognize that our status in society was won by our amazing grandparents and great-grandparents. But there is still much to be strived for. Just as the Black Graduation Ceremony was a milestone, so shall be this award. And there will be many more achievements to come! You better believe that! We live in an age of flux and change. But that is life. The only thing certain in life IS change. But it is our responsibility to make sure that this change is change for the better!

Our agents of change are our SMC alums and current students. As Black college students we may not always understand that we are a rarity. While Black Americans throughout the country endure debilitating poverty in many regions, many of our black males are imprisoned, some are ashamed of their culture, and social mobility is incredibly hard to achieve, we try to understand how blessed we are to be where we are now. This school year we have discussed the election year and the importance of voting, helped foster community, and worked to garner more members. This plaque will serve as a reminder to all that our legacy is a part of SMC history! This plaque will remind us to support and uplift our fellow black students, people of color and the underprivileged at Saint Mary’s. We continue to uplift fellow students and help them appreciate and be proud of our shared heritage.

On a more personal note, I’d like to share a little bit about myself. For most of my life I’ve always thought I had to do everything on my own and that I don’t need help. But last year I realized the value of help, and companionship. In elementary school at St. Paschal Baylon in Oakland, our motto was “We are many. We are one.” Years later these words are more striking to me than ever before. We are not in this alone! We have each other!  The only things holding us back are ourselves! We must open our hearts and minds. And with that, I’d like to quote the 2012 film “Cloud Atlas”: “My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” That is the UNITY we seek! Understanding our individuality but understanding that we are all connected and ultimately the same! To be like a WAVE OF CHANGE! On behalf of the BSU, I am incredibly grateful for your contributions and support. THANK YOU.

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