Award-winning actor, Derek Luke, will be this year’s spring Commencement speaker on Saturday May 7, 2022. The actor who is well known for his roles in Antoine Fischer, Captain America: The First Avenger, Friday Night Lights, Biker Boyz_ and Miracle at Saint Anna amongst many others will share about his Career and Calling and demonstrating excellence in Civic and Sacred Spaces. Derek’s faithful witness as he pursues passions in the movie industry will be such an instructive treat for our Spring #wpuknights graduates and our campus community. 👏🏾🙌🏾👑
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“You are going to get rooms that you do not like. They will not be, perhaps, as attractive as your desire, or they will be too crowded. You are going to be given persons for roommates with whom you think it is going to be impossible to get along pleasantly, people who are not congenial to you. During the hot months your rooms are going to be too hot, and during the cold months they are going to be too cold. You are going to meet with all these difficulties in your rooms. Make up your mind that you are going to conquer them. I have often said that the students who in the early years of this school had such hard times with their rooms have succeeded grandly. Many of you now live in palaces, compared to the rooms, which those students had. I am sure that the students who attend this school find that the institution is better fitted every year to take care of them than it was the year previous.” “A Sunday Evening Talk: Some Rocks Ahead,” Booker T. Washington
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Among the many priorities Mr. Washington had in relationship to his duties as president of Tuskegee Institute (University), fostering a relationship with his students was high among these. The Sunday evening talks were designed for students to engage the founding principal and president in less formal ways than at official gatherings such as convocations, commencements and formal student body association meetings. Moreover, he used these times to try to instill in them something of the “Tuskegee spirit.” Yet, try as one might-and in spite of the many positive aspects of the institution that are hardly ever touted-there are always areas of on-going concern for students, or “some…rocks ahead” for students within a university living-learning environment. Here, Mr. Washington addresses one of these: residential living. To be sure, this address was for Tuskegee Institute (University) students in the 19th century as opposed to the 21st century. (And it is clear that the 21st century institution has a fiscal duty to ensure the best facilities available to its students.) Notwithstanding, there are simply some matters in residential living that are common to all persons living within a university environment that are entirely unavoidable, and a student must simply “conquer them.” First, the room may not be as “attractive as you desire.” The living-learning environment is by no means the culmination of one’s career. It is a stop en route to a glorious career path that has as its ultimate destination a home purchase consistent with one’s desires and affordability. (This is often dependent upon your academic success as a student.) Second, “roommates” may not be “congenial.” Everyone recalls meeting strangers for the first time and though the initial meeting was uncomfortable, these strangers became life-long friends. (Many of our best, life-long friends are cultivated in the college and university living-learning environment, and had we not endured, we would have missed a valuable relationship that might be instrumental in our future successes.) Third, heating and air challenges are often the case even with respect to one roommate preferring it cold while the other hot. (Universities do their very best to address these situations upon proper reporting to the designated resident advisor, residential hall director, facilities director and Vice President for Student Success and Engagement. It is not the university president who one contacts for these matters until the lines of authority are exhausted.) Lastly, a balanced perspective recognizes that “many of you now live in palaces, compared to the rooms which [previous generations of] students had” and for most universities, “the students who attend this school find that the institution is better fitted every year to take care of them than it was the year previous.” While the “struggle” of residential living within a university environment is oft-times a real and verifiable one, students would do well to remember the following adage: “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” And the goal is the successful completion of a baccalaureate or post-baccalaureate degree-preferably a University baccalaureate or post-baccalaureate degree. And ultimately a career coupled with a calling fulling a great purpose: Careers fill Pockets; Calling fulfill People and Careers coupled with Calling fulfill great Purposes.
“If I am not mistaken, your views and those of my friend, Mr. Washington, are diametrically opposed, or at least in that you feel that his program in all particulars is not in harmony with the modern spirit.”-“Letter to W.E.B. Du Bois,” Richard Lloyd Jones, Editor, _Collier’s Weekly_ January 7, 1904
“I have been thinking over the invitation you gave in your letter to me to send you my ‘editorial thought.’ Have you ever thought of this: the color line is belting the world today; about it world interests are centering. Would it not be an interesting experiment to start in Collier’s a column-or half a column-called ‘Along the Color Line’ or the Voice of the Darker Millions’ and put therein from week to week or month to month note & comment on the darker races in America, Africa, Asia & c., from the standpoint of the serious student & observer-the spirit of it being informing & interpretive rather than controversial. Would it pay? Would the public stand it? I think I could edit such a column.”-“Letter to Richard Lloyd Jones,” W.E.B. Du Bois, January 30, 1904
W.E.B. Du Bois’s proposition to periodically “inform” white audiences who, at the time, were the primary readers of _Collier’s Weekly_ about African American social problems and “interpret” the “darker races” for them not only allowed him to avoid problems along the racial divide that explicitly incriminated white Americans; it also revealed his handling of white periodical editors to support reform ideals very similar to those introduced in “The Conservation of Races,” which was written during his tenure within the American Negro Academy. (Along with Alexander Crummell, Du Bois founded the academy to inspire reform ideals within the African American community while simultaneously fighting against vicious onslaughts attacking it.) Similar handling would also lead to significant leadership roles in the Niagara Movement in 1905 and the NAACP in 1909. Besides Collier’s Jones, many progressive and religious white periodical editors were intrigued by a Harvard-trained African American scholarly figure like Du Bois who sought to “solve the Negro problem” in a manner quite unlike Booker T. Washington, the most well-known African American social leader during the period. After Washington’s infamous 1895 Exposition address in Atlanta, which led to his far more infamous Tuskegee policies emphasizing industrial training, Washington became the enemy of a fiery-but institutionally impotent-class of educated and socially progressive African Americans that included Du Bois. Until Du Bois’s periodical writings appeared in major white periodicals between 1897 and 1910, this group was largely silenced due to Washington’s enormous influence among white institutions, including national white periodicals. As the first socially progressive African American with a Harvard Ph.D., Du Bois was the most successful spokesman among his educated (though to a lesser degree) African American peers. His success as spokesman, along with his belief that an advanced education was essential to real reform, garnered great interest in his writings from sympathetic white periodical editors.
“I suppose you’d like to be a Crow and fly over the world and see just everything as I,-and maybe I wouldn’t like to be a dear Brownie!-but since Crows must be Crows and Folks must be Folks, I’ll try to tell you about some things I’ve seen on my flight over the seas!”-William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, _Crisis Magazine_ (July 1920)
While W.E.B. Du Bois’s own descriptions of the crow’s travels through “many and varied nests” appear to explain his idealistic search for a centralized place for his unique and innovative concerns as a scholar, the crow’s prophetic symbolism in relation to the periodical is far more enigmatic. As an embodiment of Du Bois himself, the black crow bore a conspicuous resemblance to that of an Old Testament seer or prophet with only one distinction: a biblical seer or prophet possessed a providential mandate for his oracles and writings, whereas Du Bois’s authority-manifested most profoundly in periodical and utilitarian writing-proceeded from his standing as the first Harvard- and Berlin-trained African American sociologist. Du Bois addressed African American social maladies using truths derived from sociological investigations in the African American community, which heretofore had never been attempted by an African American. He also possessed the unique advantage of being the most qualified African American to pursue African American social questions from an academic standpoint, and, among qualified sociologists, Du Bois was among the few whose work was wholly devoted to African American social problems for reform purposes. The black crow embodied in Du Bois’s founding of _Crisis Magazine: A Periodical of the Darker Races_ in 1910 as an arm of the NAACP; with it Du Bois marshaled the periodical’s unique ability to tersely disperse his enormous academic breadth of knowledge for reform and uplift purposes for the national African American and the larger global black communities. By situating the “black” crow “high above,” “looking downward with sharp eyes,” and dropping “bits of news” to the ordinary “folks,” Du Bois was able to metaphorically describe his uniqueness as an African American scholar relaying pertinent historical and contemporary knowledge for the purposes of reforming African Americans. Although the imagery surrounding the crow remains cryptic, it is certain that Du Bois was prescient enough to to know that the figure of the crow would personify an African American with unparalleled possibilities in the realm of utilitarian periodical writing that few could ignore, including major white editors and their national white audience. From such progressive, liberal and religious platforms, Du Bois could finally be seen and finally disseminate what he saw in a manner that he could not through the many academic and scholarly works that many non-academics would never encounter. Even his most famous work, (1903) _The Souls of Black Folk_ contained 9 of the book’s 14 essays that were first published via periodical publication.
2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;
It should come as no surprise when God finally reveals to others those servants who He intends to use for His purposes; besides, what brilliant military strategist (or even CHESS strategist) allows his opponent to see the instrument that will ultimately prove to be their undoing? Consider Moses. Would the Egyptians have trained Moses in all their art and skill if they knew that he would be the Hebrews’ hoped-for deliverer? Consider Paul. Would Gamaliel and his contemporaries have trained Paul if they knew that he would be the communicator of some strange new doctrine? In many ways, two longstanding, revered institutions unwittingly assisted God in hiding, shaping, crafting and training men that would be later used for His purposes. Therefore, wonder and care not for the apparent obscurity of your present circumstances:
[…Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?] Esther 4:14
7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he reminded the brethren: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” And the reminder is one that we would all do well to remember. For the state that we were in when our Lord sought us out and found us was not one of position, status, rank, stature, fortune or spiritual strength; rather we were altogether weak and in need. Consider King Saul. He was from the smallest of the tribes of Israel—the Benjamites, and was not thought to be worthy of being named as Israel’s first king; Yet when he became king and was in need he relied more upon the title he obtained rather than returning to the state he was in prior to receiving the title of king. Samuel reminded the king of this when remarked: “When thou was little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?” What Saul failed to remember is one of the most recurring ideas found in scripture: With God, His strengths are most present in our weaknesses:
[And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.] 2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV
“The more we talked with the students who were then coming to us from several parts of the state, the more we found that the chief ambition among a large proportion of them was to get an education so that they would not have to work any longer with their hands. This is illustrated by a story told of a coloured man in Alabama, who, one hot day in July, while he was at work in a cotton field, suddenly stopped, and, looking toward the skies, said: ‘O Lawd, de cotton am so grassy, de work am so hard, and the sun am so hot dat I b’lieve dis darky am called to preach!” – Booker T. Washington “Up From Slavery” (1901)
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
In hindsight, it would be all too easy to take issue with Mr. Washington’s late 19th and early 20th century preoccupation with working “with the hands,” or his use of dialect to illustrate a noteworthy principle; however, if we were to suspend judgment we might find an important ideal revolving around notions of “calling,” “vocation,” and the requisite work required for success within a designated “field.” Though stated broadly and not ascribed to the entirety of the ministerial profession, Mr. Washington’s statement that some students elected not to continue working “with their hands”-opting instead to pursue ministry-has profound reverberations for the present. To be sure, many students elected to change their pursuit of one profession to another for a variety of reasons-including seeking congruence with their latent talent, skills and desires. All the same, there are many instances where a student may have not simply had the wherewithal to continue his or her labors due to the proverbial “price of the ticket.” And this is clearly Mr. Washington’s concern in this passage. One simply cannot expect to achieve enduring success in any endeavor or profession without first putting in the requisite work that is often designed to harden and prepare for subsequent experiences in the profession. For demonstrating a proven ability to overcome difficult circumstances-and preferably more than one-is infinitely more impactful than merely communicating the stories of others who have overcome.
“I have great faith in the power and influence of facts.” – Booker T. Washington, _Up From Slavery_(1901)
Presidential Commentary by Dr. Brian Johnson
Men and women who possess leadership responsibilities beyond their own persons would be hard pressed to find any better ally or supporter than facts. And men and women of the ilk of Booker T. Washington, founding principal and president of Tuskegee (Institute) University, marshaled both favorable or unfavorable facts to similar ends. It is simply not true that one should keep one’s eyes open to favorable facts while closing one’s eyes to unfavorable facts. Mr. Washington’s penchant for earnestness, frankness and directness in his communications to donors and external constituencies always commingled both favorable and unfavorable facts. As to favorable facts, one ought always communicate what the organization does well in a clear, documentable and evidentiary fashion. (An outcomes-oriented organization need not rely upon fables when facts are present.) On the other hand, communicating unfavorable facts is equally important. Whether one concedes it or not, everyone knows when something “is not right.” A plain statement and admission of an organization’s current environment is one of the clearest telltale signs of organizational integrity. (Hear again, “integrity” is the single greatest 9-letter word.) For Mr. Washington did not merely state that all things were always favorable. (Why would anyone seek outside help if all things, as they currently exist, are favorable? Any petition for aid immediately pronounces the opposite. For no one asks for help when there is no need for it.) Instead, he oft-times made a plain statement of the organization’s current environment while positively projecting its target environment. In this regard all successful outside entities have empathy towards such an organization because a right understanding of one’s current environment with a view towards its target environment necessitates a commingling of both facts that are favorable and unfavorable.
8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
The very best open doors of opportunity are those open doors that have been set before us by God. While there are many doors of opportunity that lie open before us each and every day, we would do well to discern whether the door has been opened by the Lord. Consider Jael and Sisera. As Sisera fled from Barak, Jael invited Sisera into her tent and offered him milk and butter in a royal dish. And when he became weary and went fast asleep, she smote a nail into his temples. Although Jael offered Sisera safe entryway into her tent and was supposed to stand guard at the door to decieve would-be pursuers, ultimately, Jael proved to be the person that would take Sisera’s life. While Sisera was already in opposition to God, the principle taken from his entry into an open door remains the same: Unlike Jael, when the Lord promises you entry into a door, He will also ensure your safety while within.
[For when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there;] Deuteronomy 12:10-11