Coalition hosts annual banquet


Photo by: Christina Xan

South Carolina representative, Cezar McKnight, speaks to members of the African-American Faculty and Staff Coalition during their annual banquet to support the Coalition’s scholarship program.

FMU faculty, professors and guests attended the 16 annual scholarship banquet hosted by FMU’s African- American Faculty and Staff Coalition (the Coalition) held on Feb. 16 in the University Center (UC) commons. The theme for this year’s banquet was “Rise Up and Be the Change You Wish to See.”

The formal event was presided by assistant professor of psychology Dr. Erika James and began with an open bar and music from The Faithful Few Band while guests mingled and socialized with one another. After a brief welcome from administrative assistant Janice Smith, the attendees were served dinner.

While attendees ate, the scholarship recipients were recognized for their academic accomplishments. For the 2016-2017 academic year, 10 students received the Dr. Joseph E. Heyward Scholarship. One student received the Dr. Dorothy Harris Graduate Student Scholarship, and there were two recipients for both the Rebecca S. Lunn Scholarship and the Dr. LeRoy “Pete” Peterson Scholarship.

After their recognition, the scholarship recipients gave their thanks to guests and the FMU faculty and staff. Each student had recorded themselves giving their personal thanks to those involved in the Coalition scholarship process. In the presentation, the recipients shared some of their future aspirations and explained how the scholarships they received are helping them to achieve those goals.

After this brief presentation attendees then welcomed Cezar McKnight, a representative in the South Carolina. House of Representatives, District 101, as the keynote speaker for the event. His speech outlined certain ways in which he said African-American students and families suffer in social and educational experiences. He said the solution to these problems is to not be lukewarm. “Over 29 percent of blacks in South Carolina live in poverty,” McKnight said. “They also have the worst statistics for teen pregnancies and low high school graduation rates. A person would have a better chance at a bright and successful future being born in Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Botswana or Cuba than being born as an African-American in South Carolina.”

McKnight said that these problems arise partly because people don’t stand up and are not passionate about a cause. For McKnight, this current moment in history is too controversial and too important to not have a cause.

“I need you to be on fire about something,” McKnight said. “There’s too much at risk to be lukewarm.”

McKnight said that America as a nation is currently facing its third period of reconstruction due to racial advancement. He challenged the attendees to take a risk and stand together to help reverse and settle this advancement once and for all. To do so, though, he said people must be strong and take hold of their voting rights to elect the right people into authoritative and powerful positions.

“In the last state election, 60 percent of registered, non-white voters stayed at home,” McKnight said. “That’s over one-half of the state’s voices that were not heard. Imagine what could happen if we attack the lukewarm attitudes right now.”

In the conclusion of his speech, McKnight said that the best way for students and other individuals to reverse these social issues is to confront them head-on.

“You cannot fight what you don’t face,” McKnight said.

After McKnight’s speech, President of FMU Dr. Fred Carter wrapped up the event’s speeches by thanking the Coalition and the scholarship recipients for their hard work and determination and for the richness and positivity they have brought to the university.

To bring the event to a close, The Faithful Few Band had a brief performance, and attendees of the event were encouraged to stay in the UC, mingle and to enjoy dessert and the open bar.