Thair Brown, MCAS ’20, was announced as the winner of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship on Tuesday night.
The Boston College Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee presented the award at their 37th Annual Scholarship Ceremony themed “Still I Rise.” Staff, faculty, and family of the finalists gathered in the Murray Function Room to commemorate King and laud the accomplishments of the scholarship finalists, who demonstrated their commitment to the black community through on- and off-campus involvement.
The four other finalists—Sydney Boyd, Nwamaka Nnaeto, recent Undergraduate Government of Boston College president-elect Michael Osaghae, all MCAS ’20, and Omonosagiagbon Owens, CSOM ’20, will receive $3,000 tuition scholarships while Brown will receive up to $19,000 for senior year tuition and a $1,000 gift card to the bookstore.
Brown spoke of his journey to understanding his identity as a Jamaican-American male in the United States during a pre-recorded video shown at the ceremony.
“As I tried my best to cling to Martin Luther King’s famous quote, which asserts that, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’ I found myself waning in these convictions, for there was never any justice to be found,” Brown said. “Indeed, Marcus Garvey could not blame me for this decline in black pride and identity.”
He credits his inception of a more bitter understanding of race to his mother’s reaction concerning his workout tendencies.
“‘Stop going to the gym because the bigger you get, the more likely it is that police will see you as a threat’” his mother said.
He also recalled a mantra from his father.
“My father had always told me … that ‘USA stands for ‘U Suffer Alone,’ but in the wake of [President] Donald Trump’s new claim on America, I started to entertain this motto.
“This was the America that greeted me—its welcoming committee adorning me a shroud of constant, floating anxiety, as they rolled out the red carpet stained with blood and tears of innocent black bodies, each with a mother, a father, and … [a] ripple effect of grief,” he said.
Brown notes that in the spring of his freshman year, King’s beliefs on the power of love allowed him to see acts of kindness bestowed by his roommates and floormates of the Multicultural Living Experience, where he recalls each of the finalists living as well. This was the same love and kindness BC students on the Jamaica Magis Service Trip showed to him while he lived in Jamaica and is the same love and kindness he reciprocates in his leadership positions on campus, which include Ambassador and Leader for the Jamaica Magis Service Trip, leader for Dedicated Individuals of the People (DIOP), AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC), and president of the Caribbean Culture Club (CCC).
At the end of the ceremony and presentations, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., congratulated the finalists on their contributions toward social justice at BC and presented the award to Brown. He spoke briefly about the importance of pursuing social justice for all people, concentrating on two words to consider when thinking about what King stood for: memory and mission.
Leahy noted that it’s vital to remember what King believed in, but making it a personal mission to keep King’s vision alive by working to create a society that recognizes the dignity of all people is just as important.
Vincent Rougeau, dean of Boston College Law, served as the keynote speaker. He shared a unique childhood event that occurred after King’s funeral that was relayed to him by his mother. His parents were a part of a coalition of other parents who developed the first integrated preschools in Atlanta.
“Remember Dr. King’s funeral,” his mother said. “You and all the children from the preschool lined up hand in hand along Ashby Avenue, and you watched the funeral cortege pass, and then you all walked together with the parents and the teachers behind, along with the other mourners to the church.”
Despite this innocent, optimistic memory, Rougeau spoke to the same issues Brown mentioned.
“The United States is still in many ways a prisoner to its racist history,” he said. “A history that has not been adequately acknowledged and confronted and which continues to compromise the full membership and participation of blacks in American society. There is a long and depressing litany of examples: policing shootings of unarmed black men, school-to-prison pipeline, the ongoing wealth gap between black and white households.
“The failure of our political and economic systems to address the need for a more profound commitment to social justice, which was the focus of King’s thinking and activism in the final years of his life, has now become urgent and obvious. Social justice, and its intricate relationship to racial justice, is the aspect of Dr. King’s legacy that lies in the heart of the work these students have been doing on campus and in the community.”
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff
Image Gallery by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff