Speakers challenged University students and faculty to succeed Monday night during the second annual William Monroe Trotter lecture at the Michigan Union.
The annual lecture was created as an opportunity for Trotter to engage the public with its works and also for students and faculty to hear the stories of University community members who have been affected by racial inequity or have overcome obstacles.
This year, the lecture featured remarks from Sean Pitt, an LSA junior and Central Student Government chief of staff, Public Policy junior Hattie McKinney, vice speaker for the Black Student Union and motivational speaker Marv Fox Jr.
Pitt emphasized the importance of speaking up on the University’s campus.
“Your voice matters just as much in a leadership role as it does when you meet a friend for coffee,” Pitt said. “Or make any other decision that reflects your values and your truth.”
McKinney provided historical background on William Trotter, for whom the Trotter Multicultural Center was named, relating the history of Trotter to students’ ability to gain and exhibit self confidence. Trotter, an activist for racial equality, experienced segregation in the early 1900s and worked to combat Klu Klux Klan propaganda.
“Knowing who you are is essential,” McKinney said. “Because I have all too often encountered other people trying to tell me who you are or what they need to be.”
McKinney also emphasized the negative impacts of self doubt.
“We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ ” she said. “Ask them, who are you not to be? You are a child of God, and your playing small does not serve the world.”
Fox delivered the event’s keynote address, focusing on the process of success. According to Fox, there are three major steps a person needs to take to be successful: dream, declare and succeed.
Fox said during his remarks that people must believe in themselves and speak with confidence in order to be successful while they pursue their aspirations.
“We can’t use small words for big dreams,” Fox said. “It doesn’t work.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Fox said his keynote connected to the University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. symposium’s theme of “Who Will Be Next?” by asking audience members who they wanted to be, and how they could achieve a nobler purpose and positively impact the world.
“When we say, ‘Who’s next?’ you’re next in the event, you’re deciding this is what you want to do with your life,” he said.
Fox added that being successful begins with a personal choice.
“Who will be the next champion? Who will be the next victim?” he asked. “It’s all dependent on what you decide for yourself.”
Jessica Thompson, the program manager at Trotter Multicultural Center, helped organize the event. She said Trotter wanted to provide a platform for each speaker to share stories about their personal experiences.
“I’m always so saddened by the reality that so many of our faculty and staff don’t get that, and I was hoping this would be a start,” she said.
Thompson added that Trotter’s lecture connects to this year’s symposium theme by telling audience members they can be the next to lead to create positive change in their communities.
“By declaring, dreaming, committing and succeeding you are saying ‘I’m going to be next — as a matter of fact, I am right now,’ ” she said. “Let’s not wait for next, let’s do it right now.”
LSA freshman Alora Fleenary, who attended the event, said she liked the “declaring” aspect of Fox’s action plan the most.
“Decide what you want and make it a reality,” she said. “Use the words of affirmation and speak it into being.”
After the event, LSA junior Sirak Kurban said he had learned how important it is to be an individual.
“We’re all ourselves and we all have a purpose in this life,” he said. “With our purpose and with our passion we’re really able to make a difference in this world.”