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DEI in action: 'Lifting every voice'

February 16, 2022

As we celebrate Black History Month, I reflect upon and honor rich contributions that African Americans have made to the field of higher education within Michigan State University. At the institutional level, I honor Dr. Cliff Wharton, Michigan State’s first Black president, Dr. David Dickson, MSU’s first Black faculty member and William Thompson, the first known Black student to graduate from Michigan State University.

In addition, I honor the advancements that African American trailblazers have specifically made to James Madison College: Dr. Robert Green, as the first Black faculty member of James Madison College. Dr. Curtis Stokes’ contributions to the Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy major within James Madison College, as well as his creation of The Race in 21st Century America Conference Project. And most recently, Dr. Lisa Cook’s nomination as the first Black woman to serve on the Federal Reserve Board. Their successes have created a pathway for future generations of James Madison students.

I also acknowledge the invisible labor of faculty, staff and students who are advancing racial equity through their everyday efforts and actions. Examples include ensuring that Black history is embedded in curriculum and courses, assisting in the recruitment and retention efforts of minoritized students within Michigan State University and James Madison College and striving to further the ideals of trailblazers described above who sought to, or are seeking to advance the climate of our university and JMC College.

The lyrics below, written by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson, speak to the historical quest for African Americans to move the needle of justice.

            Stony the road we trod

            Bitter the chastening rod

            Felt in the days when hope unborn had died

            Yet with a steady beat

            Have not our weary feet

            Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

As the lyrics suggest, the struggle to advance diversity, equity and inclusion is challenging; yet African Americans in even the direst of times, have been a hopeful people.

            Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us

            Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us

            Facing the rising sun of our new day begun

            Let us march on till victory is won.

Whether you are an activist, an ally or an advocate, we recognize your efforts and celebrate your successes during this important month and beyond.

Please enjoy “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” performed by the Stanford Talisman Alumni Virtual Choir.



Brian Johnson

Assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion