Over 400 alumni, students, current and former faculty, parents, and friends of Andover gathered to celebrate AfLatAm’s 50th Anniversary. Founded in 1968 on the heels of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, AfLatAm cemented itself in Andover’s history as a beacon of hope and activism. Below are opening remarks from CaMD Director and AfLatAm faculty advisor, LaShawn Springer.
Good Evening. What a beautiful crowd! It doesn’t always look like this so I’m going to soak this moment in. It is such an honor to welcome you all to the AfLatAm 50tAnniversary celebration. Our Golden Anniversary. As the director of CAMD and the faculty advisor of AfLatAm, this organization and this celebration means a great deal to me. Before I share some remarks with you all, there are some very important folks I need to thank and acknowledge. My sincerest thanks to the planning and fundraising committee for the 50th all of whom has seen this program to fruition and have planned a spectacular weekend for us all. My thanks to everyone in the Office of Alumni Engagement for their partnership and generosity of time and energy in executing the weekend. Our friends in Paresky who will make sure we are well-fed and nourished throughout the weekend. Our friends in OPP for all their work behind the scenes to set-up for the weekend. To all of our students who helped plan the weekend, my thanks—they chose the classes for the back to the classroom session, planned the dinner menu, will lead tours in the morning, and are performing during the dinner tomorrow. They have been anxiously awaiting your arrival. And, of course to all of you for showing up.
It’s so important for us to show up for events and celebrations like this. It’s a reminder of the enduring legacy and indelible impact of AfLatAm on generations of students, faculty, and staff and to the institution itself. To Hafsat Abiola, class of ’92, thank you for being our keynote. I heard her speak during the knowledge and goodness campaign launch and was so impressed as you held us all in that space with your story. And last but certainly not least there are a special group of folks to whom I am personally and professionally indebted. Those who have carried this club for 50 years, from its founding in ’69 to today—every president of AfLatAm, especially Mr. Willie Ivey, the founder of AfLatAm and to all of the former CAMD deans whose convictions and strength of courage I hold onto–Ms. Cathy Royal, Mrs. Rebecca Sykes, Mr. Bobby Edwards, and Ms. Linda Carter Griffith. My sincerest and heartfelt thanks to all of you. May I ask all of our former presidents and Deans to stand to be recognized? Thank you.
This year, we were fortunate to welcome Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen to campus as our MLK Day speaker and I keep coming back to this line from her book that reads ‘I do not always feel colored. I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background.’ Folks here might be tired of hearing me share that line but as I think about AfLatAm, its founding and its enduring legacy, I think I come back to it because it best sums up for many students (and faculty) of color what it feels like to be in spaces like Andover and depending on when you were here and what the socio-political backdrop was–that feeling may have been heightened. I can’t possibly begin to tell you all how much it means to me that we are ending the school year celebrating the 50th Anniversary of AfLatAm. I know we still have 37 more days (I’m counting too)…but really to be here after we reflect on all this year brought us is truly monumental. We started this school year in the shadow of Charlottesville. In an uneasiness that also saw the repeal of DACA, the travel ban, and so much more. And each time, our students rallied and organized. They remembered that the greatest change agents in history have been young people.
And, quite honestly, there are some days that I don’t even have the words or the energy and it is true that sometimes, it is them (all of our young ppl) who, as Toni Morrison says, ‘gather me. The pieces I am, they gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.’ This is what AfLatAm is—all at once it is a space for collective healing. A space of belonging. A place to organize. A space for powerful action. It’s where we sustain ourselves. A place of freedom. A liberatory practice. A space committed to justice—intersectional justice. A space to unabashedly be ourselves. A place of resistance. A place of peace. A citizenry. A family. I am excited to get to know this massive, diverse, beautiful extended family over these next few days. In the meantime, I’m honored to bring an important member of this family to stage. Please join me in welcoming the 50th AfLatAm President, and a heroine of mine, Ms. Emily Ndiokho.