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Avon Launches Second Semester with MLK Program on How To Be Leaders

Avon Launches Second Semester with MLK Program on How To Be Leaders

On Monday, January 18, to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Avon Old Farms started the second semester of the school year with a special schedule, including a virtual program with Dr. Omekongo Dibinga, the founder of UPstander International. Dr. Dibinga is a multi-talented performer as well as a professor of intercultural communication at American University who speaks regularly around the country and around the world.

Dr. Dibinga’s message centered around how Avonians can put themselves in a position to be leaders, to be UPstanders, and how to make change. He shared thoughts about the political climate, and how, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter where on the political spectrum a person lies... together, today’s youth will inherit this society. He brought the conversation down to the macro level, suggesting that we all hear about trying to get people to talk across the political aisle, but asked how often do we cross the aisle or hallway here at school? 

“There is a lot of talk about moving towards healing, but little talk about how to actually do that... what steps to take,” he says. 

Luckily, Dr. Dibinga was prepared with some specific steps our students and faculty can take: LEAD.

  • First, listen. He said that, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason; we should use them proportionately.” Not until we are ready to listen to the opinions of others and ask why they believe certain things can we do better.

  • Then, educate yourself. If we only surround ourselves with opinions that we agree with, we will never know what we don’t know. Dr. Dibinga shared a lesson with Avonians that he teaches his students at American University: get news from a variety of sources from all sides of the matter, and then think for yourself.

  • Third, advocate. Dr. Dibinga asked students what they do in the dorms, on the fields, and in the classrooms when they see injustice. Do they challenge it? Or are they bystanders? He encouraged students to be upstanders, to help others, to make a difference in the lives of those who need support.

  • Lastly, he asked students to decide: decide who they are going to be in this world. Are they going to be a leader, or a bystander? He admitted that those who lead may lose some friends, but promised that they would gain a global community. 

To tie it all together, Dr. Dibinga shared a quote from Dr. King: "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." By following the mantra to LEAD, Avonains can educate themselves and seek out answers to the questions they have about the world in which they are living.

To partake in the program, students gathered with their advisor groups around campus and Zoomed in to the meeting. The program was very engaging, encouraging a lot of questions submitted to the speaker by our students and faculty on everything from how to seek out truth in a world driven by the 24-hour news cycle in which it seems each network has its own opinion to why Dr. Dibinga chose to write his dissertation in Jay-Z.

In the end, however, Dr. Dibinga chose to end with some original poetry and a call to action: What one thing will you do today to become a leader?