Gov. Snyder, Daymond John speak at Keeper of the Dream ceremony

By Kevin Graham

Daymond John, creator of the FUBU clothing line and venture capitalist on the ABC TV show “Shark Tank” told the crowd packed into the Oakland Center Banquet Rooms about his journey from being a kid in Queens to creating his own multimillion-dollar brand.

John’s speech was the keynote for Monday’s Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Awards Celebration that also featured an appearance by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The scholarship honors students who contribute to OU’s understanding and goodwill among cultures. The event also celebrates the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Equality, empowerment and opportunity

Gov. Snyder took the stage first and discussed how King’s vision for the civil rights movement was multifaceted.

“If you looked at what Dr. King spoke about and what he represented, it was about equality, it was about empowerment and it was about opportunity,” Snyder said. “That’s something that each one of us need to stay focused on.”

He said person-to-person interaction needed to be at the heart of this. He went on to outline some initiatives being implemented at the state level covering topics like jobs, social work and health services.

He said that change still goes beyond government.

“If you look at it, it’s not just the work of those of us that have been around a long time, it’s how do we create role models and mentors for the future,” he said. “We have some college-age students now stepping up to be role models and mentors even at your young age.”

 

Role models

The next part of the ceremony honored three OU students who spread the message of multiculturalism and acceptance during their time on campus.

Each student recorded a video message on what the award meant to them.

Steven Wynne, a senior majoring in English and German education, was honored for his work with the Honors College and with the LGBT community both inside and outside of OU. In the Honors College, he challenges students to confront their stereotypes about the LGBT, Hispanic and African-American communities.

Following his time at OU, Wynne hopes to teach.

“My further goal is to learn how they teach over there and hopefully take my teaching techniques they use abroad in Germany and other European countries and hopefully revamp how we teach foreign language and other subjects,” Wynne said.

Charlie Lapastora, a junior majoring in communication, spreads the message of diversity in part through his time slot at noon on Tuesdays on WXOU.

“There is so much garbage and negativity in this world and especially in the media,” Lapastora said. “With my show, I want to shed light on issues that many college students face and bring a positive message.”

Lapastora, who is involved with intramural sports and a member of the club lacrosse team, said he would like to join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes following graduation and spread the message of diversity through sports.

Bria Ellis, a sophomore majoring in philosophy and political science, does a lot of work within OU’s LGBT community serving both as vice president of Students Advocating for Gender Awareness and V-Day, an organization hoping to bring the “Vagina Monologues” to OU.

In the future, she hopes to make an impact in international law.

“I want to charge people who are doing the sex trade, who are doing the slave trade and who are killing all of these people for basically nothing and they think they can just get away with it,” Ellis said.

 

Paying it forward

As the featured speaker, John spoke of his experience building the FUBU brand.

He spoke of an early life experience with racism and the wisdom he got from his stepfather.

“‘Son, you can be pro-black,’” John said about his father.“‘It doesn’t mean you’re anti-anything else, but never respect another man or woman if they don’t respect your culture or respect you.’”

When hip-hop hit the scene, John identified with it and sold popular clothing brands at the time in order to make enough money to follow groups like Run DMC and Beastie Boys on tour.

Eventually, John found his niche within the community making clothing featuring the tagline “For Us, By Us,” or FUBU.

For a couple of years, John had everyone he could find wear FUBU shirts in their music videos.

Even with his relentless promotion, the brand didn’t really take off until a star gave John’s brand a boost by paying it forward. LL Cool J signed on to help promote the brand.

“‘I’m only here because the hood supported me,’” he said to John. “‘I’m only here because Russell (Simmons) hooked me up. If I don’t do this for you, I wouldn’t be able to look at my mother’s face.’”

With the help of the rap mogul, John’s business took off.