I am honored and humbled by the special opportunity I was afforded, as a non-traditional undergraduate student, to earn my Bachelor's degree from within the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), founded by the late scholar-activist, Dr. Manning Marable. The depth, rigor and ever-relevant material contained within the Institute's interdisciplinary coursework, combined with the intellectual heft expressed by its diverse faculty, many who are pioneers in their respective fields, was transformative. I can without equivocation say, this first-rate liberal arts education was the most enlightening and substantive experience of my life thus far and one that will undoubtedly influence all of my future endeavors.
Because this experience was so empowering, I would like to take a moment and allot some precious cyber real estate to express my sincere gratitude to several academics and staff, whose patient-guidance, breadth of knowledge and kinship helped metamorphose my life. First, I want to thank administrative assistant, Sharon Harris. Sharon's infectious personality and indispensable commitment to maintaining and improving upon not only the day-to-day operations within IRAAS, but also the overall experience of IRAAS students, were influential elements that helped me succeed within the walls of the Institute; Sharon's comedic and maternal disposition was especially helpful on those days, while going through the growing pains of confronting, penetrating and coming to terms with challenging, provocative, paradigm-shifting and necessary view points voiced within the material, by peers and our professors. I want to thank my thoughtful Intro to African American Studies professor, Kevin Fellezs, whose illuminating class provided my initial gateway into the Institute. I want to thank my informative, kind and ever-dapper undergraduate adviser, Dr. Josef Sorett. I want to thank my MLK Radical Democracy graduate seminar professor, Obery Hendricks who shined a light on the oft-untold radical political vision of MLK, and who fortuitously introduced me to his friend (and personal hero), legendary Civil Rights/Black Freedom Movement icon, Jessie Jackson.
I want to thank my Black Intellectuals seminar professor, Frank Guridy; Professor Guridy is an incredibly engaging intellectual in his own right, who set a high bar for our class discussions, consistently challenging our underdeveloped opinions, while pushing our class to continue to return to the text for further interrogation. I would like to thank my hyper-logical, hilarious and rather intimidating History of the South professor, Barbara Fields; Anecdotally, Professor Fields played a key role in prompting me to return to school and attend Columbia University; Her dense and challenging class was essential, as was reading her and her sister Karen Fields' seminal book "Racecraft." And finally, I want to thank my warm and extremely talented Novels of Toni Morrison professor, Independent Study adviser and Director of IRAAS, Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin. Studying every novel published by the Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison in Professor Griffin's insightful seminar was like a dream. What was even more influential was how Professor Griffin gave me the confidence to believe my own writing had value and my opinions worth reading. Everyone I spoke with when I first entered IRAAS assured me I should take a class with Professor Griffin--they were right. Thank you all. There is no greater gift than an education, especially one dedicated to building coalitions and forging a more just and equitable society, which is the gift each of you in your own individual way, offered me.