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Stay Woke Month: Showcase for Human Relations Perspectives  

Rev. Dr. Forrest Pritchett

Rev. Dr. Forrest Pritchett, director of The Martin Luther King Leadership Program

Students from numerous multicultural organizations at Seton Hall will collaborate to offer programs during November 2020.

The concept of "stay woke" is inspired from a commencement address at Oberlin College in 1965 delivered by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King states that in the Washington Irving story of Rip Van Winkle, that before Rip went up into the mountain to sleep, he saw a sign on a little inn near the Hudson River. On the sign was a picture of King George III of England. When he came down twenty years later, the sign instead had a picture of George Washington, the first President of the United States on it. Rip Van Winkle had peacefully slept through a revolution that would change the world.

Shaaliyah T. Lyons '17, an MLK Scholar, who received a B.S. in Sports Management from the University as well as an MPA with a concentration in Nonprofit Management Concentration, is credited as the originator of the "Stay Woke Month" activities at Seton Hall. "Stay Woke Month stemmed from the idea of having an intellectual awakening and being socially conscious and aware of what is going on around you and acting upon it," she said. "I developed Stay Woke Month to build a proper foundation for the nature of programs the SHU community should have.  Throughout my undergraduate career, there were not enough programs on what was going on in the world.  My goal for Stay Woke Month was to be a wakeup call to every person of color on campus. It was an initiative to have a month-long campaign dedicated to promoting social consciousness and awareness with the theme of "Stay Woke." The objective was to promote discussions around social consciousness that in turn would promote social commitment (action) within the community.  Topics included, black women in the media, black men in education, the Talented Tenth, and visual culture and social justice.  A key component to Stay Woke Month was that all marginalized groups held a program within the month, in addition to the Black Caucus organizations.  Ultimately, my dream was to educate, inspire and uplift the SHU community therefore lifting the communities around us.  We need to evaluate the systems that we are in and begin to change them.  The US is making history every day and Stay Woke Month is set to organize students to ensure they are on the right side of history!"

The first event for the 2020 commemoration was held on Black Solidarity Day, Monday, November 2, with a program entitled "My Blackness Is…"

According to Patlene S. Denis '22, who graduated with a B.S. in Psychology and held the position of Vice President of the Black Student Union at Seton Hall (Est. 1967) and served as a Representative of the Black Caucus. "The first Monday of November and the day before election day. The importance of this day is the reason why Carlos E. Russell created Black Solidarity Day, which is a day of absence inviting  people of African-American and African descent and supporters throughout the country to abstain from participating in their regular activities. This peaceful absence was used to demonstrate opposition to racism, as well as social and civil injustices, on a global level. Thus, on a day where Black people and people of color are standing together, it is important to bring to the table the stereotypes that were implemented in our community deemed to divide and tear us down, have a conversation on how to overcome them and how we can continue to grow, uplift each other and prevail regardless of all the odds stacked up against us."  

The MLK Scholar Association developed an empowerment seminar. It will be coordinated by class of 2022 members Anya C. Seehusahai and Tehyah Carver.

The year 2020 has created an unexpected paradigm shift. From the economic and public health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to the increased occurrence of racial injustice, conversations surrounding these subjects have been brought to the foreground. As an organization that centers on social justice, the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Association believes that it would be best to use our program, the Human Relations Convocation, to highlight and explore the way this year's events have affected or will affect our society presently or in the foreseeable future. This guided discussion will encourage the members of the Seton Hall community to actively engage with their peers while gaining insight and information about these events on a domestic and global scale.

"My hope for this program is that students will feel comfortable sharing the ways in which 2020 has impacted them individually," said Seehusahai, who is slated to graduate in 2022. "A lot of changes have occurred this year and many people's lives have changed in different ways. I hope this program broadens students' understanding on how 2020 has impacted people's lives and the global community. Additionally, I hope students leave the event with new perspectives on how impactful 2020 has been."

"A hope I have for this program is that students and faculty use it as a launchpad to express their knowledge and emotions regarding the issues discussed alongside those that are personal to them," said Tehyah Carver. I want this program to be an empowering experience that encourages members of the Seton Hall family to become active proponents of change in their respective academic and personal communities."

On Tuesday November, 10, MLKSA and the Division of Student Services will present the third part of "the policing series" with MLKSA's Open Forum: "Where Do We Go From Here?"

This will be an open forum panel discussion that will discuss the climate that has resulted from ongoing racism and police brutality. Most importantly, it is intended to serve to educate and to discuss steps that may be taken from the current position as well as a discussion of where, as a nation, we may possibly go. Providing different points of view, the panel will include Larry Hamm, Founder of People's Organization for Progress; Professor Kelly Harris, program chair of the Seton Hall Africana Studies Department; Det. Sally Reaves of the South Orange Police Department; and Jasmine Cartright-Atkins, a student activist, and a representative from the Newark Civilian Review Board.

Location: Virtual https://events.shu.edu/view/event/date/20201110/event_id/11771

BLK CAUCUS EVENTS (The Black Caucas is a collaboration between fourteen student cultural organizations to facilitate effective programming).

  • Monday 11/2 BSU Black Solidarity Day- My Blackness is… program 7:30pm
  • Tuesday 11/3 MLKSA Junior event 9pm
  • Wed. 11/4 BMS What does it means to be a BMS? 7:30pm
  • Fri. 11/6 (Alphas) Second Annual Ice Cold Cabaret 8pm
  • Mon. 11/9 Election Day Recap: A Public Forum 7pm
  • Tues. 11/10 MLKSA Open Forum 7pm
  • Thurs 11/12 MASC General Body Meeting 7:30pm
  • Fri. 11/13 NCNW: Fall Induction 7pm
  • Tues. 11/17 (Alphas) World Pre-maturity Day Program 6pm
  • Tues. 11/17 BSU Kwanzaa Celebration Main Lounge 7pm
  • Wed. 11/18 HAIR Workplace Etiquette Event Panel 6pm
  • Thurs. 11/19 MLKSA Multicultural Expo 7:30pm
  • Fri. 11/20 BMS: Freestyle Friday 7:30pm


For more information, on Black Caucus events, please contact Thenellie Bien Aime, 2021, College of Arts & Sciences, Biology (B.S.), President, Black Student Union Est. 1967, Representative, Black Caucus at thanelie.bienaime@student.shu.edu.

Categories: Arts and Culture

For more information, please contact:

  • Forrest Pritchett
  • (973) 275-2363
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