Spring Convocation Brings Message of Empowerment

Published on
January 28, 2021
photo of virtual convocation attendees
Photo of virtual convocation attendees

Union College faculty, staff and students came together virtually on Thursday for Spring Convocation. Even though the pandemic kept them from their traditional in-person gathering; it was other current events which inspired the message that marks the official start of the spring semester.   

“The events of the past year have brought to the surface the undercurrents of racism that have always been in our nation,” said Rev. David Miller, College Minister & Director of Justice Initiatives. “Against this backdrop, Union decided last summer that our justice efforts should focus on anti-racism.”

Around the time Union made this decision, Virginia artists Jerome and Jeromyah Jones made an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show; shining a national spotlight on their artwork, particularly “I AM 400” which highlights the culture and contributions of African Americans during the historic period from 1619 to 2019.  

The father and son team were the guest speakers for convocation and talked about their piece which serves as a creative way to educate and commemorate the accomplishments of Africans in America. 

“We don’t let anyone stop us from living our purpose and living our dreams,” said Jerome Jones.  

While the artwork begins with the horrors of the Middle Passage, it doesn’t dwell there. The 69 portraits on the banner include many familiar and renowned figures in civil rights, medicine, sports and entertainment, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, NBA Champion Bill Russell, and musician Stevie Wonder.

“Each of us has the power to correct inequities and injustices that may seem trivial to some but are crushing to others,” said Union College President Marcia Hawkins, Ph.D. as she spoke to students at the end of the program. 

“I AM 400” artwork, which is printed on a 12-foot banner, is now on display inside Sharp Academic Center for Union College campus community.