Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and beloved comedian Dave Chappelle were awarded by Harvard University on Thursday (Oct. 11) for their contributions to black history and culture.
The W.E.B. Du Bois Medal is crafted by the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at the Ivy League institution. In the past, the Hutchins Center has awarded the honor to various black celebrities including Nas, LL Cool J, Ava DuVernay, and our very own VIBE founder Quincy Jones.
The other honorees are Kenneth Chenault, chairman and a managing director of General Catalyst; Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Pamela Joyner, founder of Avid Partners, LLC; psychologist and author Florence Ladd; Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; and artist Kehinde Wiley.
Former Harvard professor Cornel West introduced Kaepernick in his speech saying, “He was not simply content with being successful, he wanted to be great.” Kaepernick reportedly requested that folks take no snapshots or recordings during his remarks.
The athlete turned black liberation activist shared a story about visiting a high school football team in Oakland, California. “One of these brothers says, ‘We don't get to eat at home, so we're going to eat on the field,’” Kaepernick said. He stated that remark stuck with him, sharing, "It's our responsibility ... to uplift them, to empower them. Because if we don't, we become complicit in the problem."
He ended his speech saying, “Love is at the root of our resistance. It will fortify everything we do."
Thank you Harvard University for honoring me tonight with the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal. I’m grateful for this recognition and to be amongst the other highly esteemed honorees that inspire me.
Photo Credit: Amari Kenoly @foot_candles pic.twitter.com/plXOBuwBlF
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) October 12, 2018
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Last night at Sanders Theatre, Colin Kaepernick, Dave Chappelle, Pamela J. Joyner, Bryan Stevenson, Shirley Ann Jackson, Florence C. Ladd, Kenneth I. Chenault, and Kehinde Wiley were honored with the distinguished W.E.B. Du Bois Medal.⠀ ⠀ The W.E.B. Du Bois Medal, named after the first African American scholar to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1895, honors those who have made contributions to African and African-American history and culture. Powerful, poignant speeches from presenters and honorees marked this year's ceremony. ⠀ ⠀ Human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, M.P.P. ’85, J.D. ’85, L.L.D. ’15, who founded @eji_org, dedicated his award to “people who did so much more with so much less” and asked the audience to think of hope as “your superpower.” Comedian Dave Chappelle said he was humbled to be on stage with his fellow honorees: “You all make me want to be better,” he said. Athlete and social activist Colin Kaepernick said that people in positions of privilege and power have a responsibility to speak up for the powerless: “If we don’t, we become complicit. It is our duty to fight for them.”⠀ ⠀ Photo: Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
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