Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz congratulates Keeper of the Dream scholarship recipient Gicentroy Henry III Jan. 21 at OU.

Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz congratulates Keeper of the Dream scholarship recipient Gicentroy Henry III Jan. 21 at OU.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Oakland University speaker calls for equity, not equality

By: Linda Shepard | C&G Newspapers | Published January 23, 2019

 Keynote speaker Jeff Johnson talks  about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Keynote speaker Jeff Johnson talks about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo by Deb Jacques

ROCHESTER HILLS — Award-winning journalist and communications strategist Jeff Johnson did not mince words about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

“What does the ‘dream’ mean to me?” he asked Jan. 21 at Oakland University. “I think that most diversity inclusion stuff is really cute. I’ve seen the pamphlets. Every campus has one.”

Black, latino and transgender students are prominently displayed in university pictures, Johnson said. “Everybody is laughing. But when you look at the (university) board and the senior executives, you don’t see them. I don’t care about equality; I care about power and equity. That’s what I want to see. When you share power, everyone gets more powerful. When we do equity, we all do better.”

Johnson provides regular content on the nationally syndicated “Rickey Smiley Morning Show.” His social and political commentaries have been published nationally, and he is sought for commentary and analysis about issues related to race, politics, popular culture and socio-economics, according to OU officials.

“Mr. Johnson is a master storyteller and will be next in a long line of excellent speakers we have had on campus for our annual Keeper of the Dream scholarship awards event,” Omar Brown-El, senior director of OU’s Center for Multicultural Initiatives, said in a statement. “Attendees enjoy hearing his message that comes from his unique perspective.”

Raised in Cleveland, Johnson attended the University of Toledo, where he served as president of the student government and Black Student Union. Johnson served as national director for the NAACP’s Youth and College Division and is also the co-author of Steve Harvey’s book “Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success.”

Johnson was the keynote speaker at OU’s annual Keeper of the Dream Awards Celebration, honoring nine student scholarship winners and their sponsors.

Keeper of the Dream scholarship recipient and first-generation Nigerian-American Chukwuebuka Unobagha said, “What I have experienced in my own life can not only help others learn about different cultures, but it can also help them feel comfortable in their own skin.”  

“While we honor Dr. King’s dream as it reflects the highest ideals of American democracy, we still have a long way for his dream and for our dream to be fulfilled,” OU President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz said.     

“We are a nation of cowards when it comes to the issue of talking about race,” Johnson said. “We are shouting at only those who agree with what we agree with. This is the backdrop for our discussion. I don’t know how to be anything but be honest.”

“Dr. King’s words are a source of inspiration for those of us in education,” Pescovitz said. “But there is a disturbing reality, a dangerous reactionary discourse of name calling, threats and acts of violence. Let us be mindful of the difficult challenges ahead.”