The Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), challenged Harvard to maintain and magnify its push for racial diversity in a speech last night at the Divinity School.
Stressing the importance of "advancing the notion that racial diversity is an asset, not a liability," Chavis addressed the crowd of 160 gathered in Andover Hall.
Chavis, at 45 the youngest person ever elected to lead the NAACP, focused on how the organization should proceed in the twentieth century in "continuing the struggle for freedom and justice."
Chavis discussed his aspiration to assemble "a world-class freedomfighting organization of committed brothers and sisters."
"Harvard is not immune to racial inequality...[there is] a challenge whether we are in the academy or the hood," Chavis said.
Chavis expressed disappointment in "young sisters and brothers who have bought into materialism...and have no sense of social responsibility," and leaders who are often "too rhetorical...who don't get deep enough."
"All these issues require each one of us to do more than what we are doing," Chavis added.
The NAACP director pointed with optimism to encouraging statistics such as this year's record number of African American students completing graduate school programs.
Students who attended the lecture responded enthusiastically to Chavis' words. "Many people think they have come into utopia here at Harvard, but there is work to be done here as surely as there is work to be done in South Central L.A.," said Divinity School student Stephanie Spellers.
Wana L. Duhart, a first-year student at the Divinity School, said she was encouraged by Chavis' progressiveness and energy.
"I appreciate his willingness to act. We've been talking for decades, it's all about action now," Duhart said.
C. Dale Gadsden, a Divinity School student offered her interpretation of Chavis' message. "Here at Harvard, in general, we spend a lot of time being theoretical. [Chavis] is engaging us to be more active...in the community."