Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Awards Banquet

First Honoree Says King Shaped Her Life

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

Keynote speaker Darcel Clark '83 urged the audience at the Feb. 20 Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Awards Banquet to draw inspiration from King's life, as she did when she won the inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship in 1982, and work to better the racial climate in America.

"I'd like to impart this evening that we should all take the message of Dr. King and complete his unfinished work," said Clark, a supervising assistant district attorney for the Office of the Bronx, NY, District Attorney. "As students, faculty, administrators and alumni, we must do all that we can to improve race relations in America."

Learning to Learn Director Dan Bunch, keynote speaker Darcel Clark, University President J. Donald Monan, SJ, and Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship winner Rizwan Jamal are shown at the Awards Dinner. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

The 15th annual banquet brought some 400 members and guests of the University community to the Welch Dining Room in Lyons Hall and featured the presentation of several awards, including the 1996 King Scholarship to Rizwan Jamal '97, and a $1,500 scholarship from the Computer Science Corp. to Janice McNair '97.

University President J. Donald Monan, SJ, spoke about the importance of learning in King's life. "For Martin Luther King Jr., learning and freedom were not important just for themselves, they were important in ways of creating unity among us and creating a genuine community," he said.

"This evening each year is a singular example of the sort of community that we are and can be at Boston College," said Fr. Monan, who received a portrait of King to commemorate his last year as the award's presenter. "You can't walk around this room - with faculty members, administrative officers, staff, alumni and students of different races and ethnic and geographic backgrounds - and not recognize and feel the coherence and unity of this community."

Clark, who spoke after the invocation by University Chaplain Richard Cleary, SJ, and a performance by the Voices of Imani, recalled how winning the award changed her life. She urged students to become community activists during and after their college careers.

Clark said receiving her scholarship, and having her academic achievement and community involvement paralleled with King's, was a life-changing event. "From that point on, I patterned my life in the spirit of Dr. King," she said.

"This campus allows you to get involved because there is so much happening here, so don't let your college career fly by without making an impact," Clark added. "Student leadership is the key to your education at Boston College."

While being a student leader can be challenging and even discouraging, "for any advancement or movement to be effective, you have to realize that you'll never start out with masses of people helping you," she said, citing Rosa Parks as an example of how one woman's actions helped inspire the civil rights movement.

Clark also asked faculty and administrators to continue providing an educational environment that is committed to the service of others.

"Foster diversity, don't hinder it, and teach your students to question injustice wherever it exists," she said, noting the important role the late Black Studies Director Amanda Houston played in her life as a mentor.

She told students that in order to be successful, they must treat themselves and others with dignity and respect and "be willing to take risks." She also urged students to be focused and steadfast in their causes and to build alliances.

Clark said students could reach beyond the walls of Boston College by volunteering at battered women's shelters, soup kitchens, churches or local community centers.

"There's a whole world out there that needs your help," she said, "and I'm here tonight as a reminder to everyone that we should all do something for somebody else. That was Dr. King's message."

The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards were presented to John Garvey Bynoe and Iyesha O'Neal. Bynoe is chairman of the Roxbury State Heritage Park Advisory Committee, which operates a combination community center and historical archive. O'Neal is a West Roxbury High School student involved in several community service activities, including a reading program for elementary school children and a mentoring effort which helps young people deal with issues like violence, substance abuse and AIDS.

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