On Friday evening, the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC) hosted a Black History Month Closing Assembly entitled “Still Black” in the Heights Room. During the event, BAIC presented the inaugural Judge David Nelson Award to Attorney Wayne Budd, BC ’63.
The award is presented to an exemplary leader in the black community who, in the words of Akosua Achampong, Undergraduate Government of Boston College president and MCAS ’18, hails from Boston College and paves the road for people coming behind them while being thankful for those who came before them.
Nelson, BC ’57 and BC Law ’60, was the first African-American to be nominated to become a federal judge in Massachusetts. He also served as a member of BC’s Board of Trustees for five terms, and as chair from 1984-87. Budd was appointed the Associate Attorney General in 1992, and served on BC’s Board of Trustees and the board of advisors for the Carroll School of Management.
During his acceptance speech, Budd cited his personal relationship with Nelson as the reason the award meant so much to him.
“David Nelson was more than just a mentor—he was my friend and my role model,” Budd said. “He helped me in so many ways, including getting on the board of trustees here at this university. But the most important thing from my perspective with regard to Judge Nelson was he taught me. He taught me how important it was to take advantage of opportunities, and to establish a good reputation within the community.”
After a standing ovation for Budd subsided, BC sociology professor C. Shawn McGuffey spoke on the importance and nuances of intersectionality in America and at BC. His talk had the audience snapping after nearly every sentence.
“I am here because I come from a long line of people who clean buildings like this,” McGuffey said. “And I hold those people with me when I come into buildings like this.”
McGuffey told the story of how he came across a book entitled The Negro Travelers’ Green Book in college. At first glance, it’s just a list of restaurants and businesses, but upon closer perusal, it reveals something more startling: The book, released annually from 1936 to 1966, is a guide for black Americans to find safe havens as they began travel throughout their home country freely for the first time.
But in McGuffey’s opinion, based on his array of experiences—specifically being held at gunpoint by police in New York City and Boston, show that there needs to be an updated metaphorical version of The Green Book published in culture for all minorities.
Systemic racism is alive and well in American culture, McGuffey said, and he realized that The Green Book had begun to resonate with him in new, more personal ways due to his experiences with discrimination.
He suggested representation and individuals claiming their identities in public spaces were the best ways to rewrite The Green Book. He cited the work done by Sojourner Truth, bell hooks, and Laverne Cox’s words on representation as his gospel on this matter. All three worked to establish the importance of existing in public space. In McGuffey’s eyes, there is nothing more important than defying “conventions if those conventions define [one’s] personhood.”
The professor cited his own experience as an example of what people can do to change the world’s experience with intersectionality.
“I proudly live my own truth as an unapologetically black queer man from Kentucky working in a predominantly and historically white universities,” he said. “And I say all that because representation matters—both as a possibility model for others but also as a means of organizing action.”
Countless tragedies, including the ones involving Tamir Rice, Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, transgender women Jasmine Sierra and Reecey Walker, along with the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, are examples of how hard it is for minorities to find safety, McGuffey explained. In particular, the less publicized tragedies involving Sierra and Walker stood out to him.
“Women’s bodies, and especially women of color’s bodies, and black trans women of color’s bodies in particular, are routinely threatened,” he said.
“We must demand more of others, we must demand more of ourselves, we must demand more of our college campuses, and we must demand more of our political leaders,” he said. “And that is why, despite the somberness of this, I am actually hopeful, because we are demanding and I am seeing progress.”
McGuffey closed by emphasizing how Black Lives Matter serves as both a symbol of black resistance and a symbol of black love. He called for a combined march of those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and those in Florida advocating for gun laws, as well as taking a closer look at the way victims of different races have been treated in the aftermath of the Ferguson and Parkland shootings.
“In my opinion, we must respectfully juggle the fact that racism must color the way we see how amazing these activists are treated, very differently from the thoughtful leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said. “We must do both of these.”
Featured Image by Taylor Perison / Heights Staff