On Tuesday, November 15th, the Robert Russa Moton Museum and the Gloucester Institute jointly held the 2011 Growing Solutionist Moton Forum. This event celebrated the contributions that the Honorable Ronald Dellums, Daphne Reid, and Dr. Oliver Hill, Jr. made to society and the ways in which they have bettered our nation and encouraged the audience to give back to society as well. The Honorable Kay Coles James, Founder and Chairman of the Gloucester Institute, summed up the purpose of the event, stating, “Solutionists are people who are willing to solve problems and put aside party lines. Today, we honor you for all that you’ve done.”
Upon the conclusion of the award ceremony, Mr. Dellums rose to give his remarks on the importance of being proud of who you are and asserting your right as a citizen. He illustrated this point through three stories.
In his first story, he described a fight that he had at school with another member of his class who called him a “dirty black African.” Upon returning home, he told his mother about his day, proud of beating his opponent. He did not, however, get the response from his mother that he had anticipated. “If you have to fight, you should only have fought because he called you dirty. Not because he called you black, because you are. Not because someone called you African, because you are of African descent. You are a thousand different adjectives. Be proud of who you are.” She used his fight as a way of teaching him to be proud of who he is and not to let others define him. As Mr. Dellums said, she “reinforced the strength of my personhood.”
In his second story, he recounted a quote he heard from Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio that has inspired him for decades. “The most revolutionary act you can engage in is to assert the full measure of your citizenship,” it said. Mr. Dellums stressed the meaning of this quote to the audience – King was urging people everywhere to assert themselves as citizens if they want to see significant change in the world. This quote inspired him to pursue a career in politics and to change the world he saw around him for the better.
He gave a personal example of making an effort to see change in the world in his third story. He described his work as a Congressman to get a bill passed that would make the United States disinvest in South Africa economically as a stand against Apartheid. The House of Representatives passed his bill after a short but heated debate and the Senate presented an alternate one. Although his bill did not make it through the senate, it helped shape the course of future legislation concerning South Africa. He saw something that he wanted to change in the world and fought for it.
Mr. Dellums, likewise, urged the audience, particularly the next generation, to do the same – to be proud of oneself and to become a part of the larger conversation in order to initiate change the world.
At the conclusion of the event, Lacy Ward, Jr., director of the Robert Russa Moton Museum, and Dr. Christopher B. Howard, president of Hampden-Syndey College, presented Mr. Dellums with a plaque with an “Our Schools Our Vision” t-shirt to thank him for speaking at the event.
Mr. Dellums said, “I come from a generation that was inspired to just get up and do.” In his speech that day, he inspired the entire audience to do the same.
The 2011 Growing Solutionist Moton Forum was sponsored by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.