Photo by Brandon Parigo, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Sister Souljah expands on Martin Luther King’s messages

The 9th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture with Sister Souljah opened and closed with one word – Peace.

The program was one of several lecture series events presented by the Division of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton and Susan B. Wilson, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, welcomed guests to the sold-out event Jan.25.

“UMKC takes a holistic approach to education,” Morton said. “The Martin Luther King Lecture brings the community to our campus. Our goal is to increase awareness of present day avenues to advocate for civil rights through free thought, action and scholarship.”

Souljah’s lecture reiterated the theme of Morton’s welcome and the relevance of The Rev. Martin Luther King’s quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat against justice everywhere.”

“He was a visionary,” Souljah said of King. He had courage during a time when many didn’t have courage, they had fear. She said it is fear that prevents people from speaking out and standing up. But her message to students is to not be fearful. They should be active on college campuses. She thanked the students for bringing her to UMKC because it shows their interest in their future.

“The best students have the love in their heart to learn and do what’s right when the right decisions are hard.”

Souljah’s message was also one of compassion. “We need compassion and selflessness as Martin Luther King had. If you can’t think beyond yourself, you will never have compassion. Lift yourself out of your own shoes and your own life. If you cannot think beyond yourself, you will not be able to self-correct and move forward. You will never have compassion.”

Her challenge to students is to grow and learn what it takes to be a visionary, as King was. “Learning is not just repeating what professors say and what is read. Take advantage of ALL campus opportunities.”

Wilson, who organized the program for Diversity and Inclusion, said “Sister Souljah embodies the values of UMKC’s Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture Series. Programs such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture Series allow us to hear from diverse voices, like Sister Souljah, who may challenge our views of the world and invite us to take action.”

Souljah is a hip-hop generation best-selling author, activist, recording artist and film producer. A graduate of Rutgers University, she earned a degree in American History and African Studies. She also attended the Cornel University Advanced Placement Study program and studied abroad in Europe at the University of Salamanca in Spain.

Souljah was a young voice in New York radio who spoke to the hip-hop audience about politics, culture, business and social organization. She was a speaker at the Million Woman March, appeared on Oprah Winfrey, Larry King Live and the cover of Newsweek Magazine. Souljah’s CD, “360 degrees of Power,” sparked international debate on issues of race, culture, sexism and politics. Today, Souljah is the author of five national best sellers. In 2007 she became a New York Times Best Selling Author and has since charted the top ten of the New York Times list three times over.

After the 2017 Presidential Inaugural Address, Souljah said, many people asked her opinion on a few of the statements. She shared her responses with the audience.

Regarding the President’s message to not be fearful, Soulja said, “There should be one fear only. The fear of God. God is in control. There is only one God and it’s not him (the President).”

Regarding the President’s message on patriotism: “I have no problem with patriotism. But if being American in our first priority, nothing else is first, including God and doing what’s right.” She quoted King again, “Injustice anywhere is a threat against justice everywhere.” She said a wrong decision is still wrong, even if it’s in the name of patriotism.

To the students concerned about their right to free speech: “I believe in free speech. But there’s a limit. You can’t use free speech to promote fear and crime.” Because college campuses are an academic free space designed to challenge thought and study, Souljah asked people to continue having important conversations and use college campuses to make this happen.

As Souljah concluded her lecture, she shared that on days when she’s losing hope, her greatest wish is that every soul is responsible for itself.

“I’m about that Rev. Martin Luther King — Love. Through your example, you’re telling the world something. Get the definition right for peace.”

Souljah also spent Wednesday in a workshop with students, sponsored by the African Student Cultural Organization.

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