Carrying out a legacy: Three students to become ‘Keepers of the Dream’

Almost 47 years after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his momentous “I Have A Dream” speech, the full impact of King’s struggle is so extensive that it’s nearly unimaginable what the world would be like otherwise.

The three students being honored this year with the Keeper of the Dream award are but a few of those carrying on King’s vision today.

The Keeper of the Dream Award was established at Oakland University in 1993 to serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come from the Civil Rights marches of the 60s and to recognize outstanding OU students who, in some part, exemplify King’s legacy. This year, Mellissa DeGrandis, Juquatta Brewer, and Chelsea Grimmer have been selected to receive the award.

Only students who have “contributed to interracial understanding and good will” and have a clear focus and high level of academic achievement are eligible for the award.

The award is available to all students regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex or major. This year each recipient will be awarded a $2,500 scholarship toward their classes at OU.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Susan L. Taylor, editor emeritus of “Essence” magazine, where she worked for almost 30 years, and founder of the National CARES Mentoring movement. She has also written a book, “In The Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor.”

Omar Brown-El, director of the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, explained why Taylor was chosen to present this year’s keynote. “Ms. Taylor’s significant achievements make her an inspiration and a dynamic role model for the students receiving the Keeper of the Dream award,” Brown-El said.

In previous years, keynote addresses have been delivered by figures such as actor and civil rights activist Danny Glover; Martin Luther King III, president of the Southern Christian Leadership conference; and Dave Bing, prior to his run as Detroit’s mayor.

Bridget Green, assistant director of the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, was on the committee that selected the award winners this year, and she said that they look for candidates who have a plan or idea that advances King’s dream.

“Students that win this award are the elite. We don’t give it to just anybody,” Green said. Green said that initiatives like Mellissa DeGrandis’ diversity mural or Chelsea Grimmer’s work with Beyond Basics helping elementary school students make those students stand out from the crowd.

Juquatta Brewer contributed to the dream by co-founding the ELITE Organization for Women. ELITE promotes relationships among all women on campus, and Brewer hopes to continue promoting them during graduate school.

“(The award winners) are so high energy, so active; they’re the epitome of what this award represents,” Green said.

Green herself was the recipient of the Keeper of the Dream award in 1995 and has since come full-circle.

She said it’s the highlight of her job to work with these students.

The rest of the selection committee is made up of faculty, administration, and former award-winners. Dr. Chaundra Scott is an associate professor in human resource development.

She said that they tried to pick students that did community-based projects in the realm of equality.

“They’re passionate students who recognize the significance of Martin Luther King’s work and have a plan,” Scott said.

The 18th annual Keeper of the Dream Award Celebration will be held Monday, Jan. 18 at 11:30 a.m. in the Oakland Center’s banquet rooms.