Speaker encourages students to continue legacy of excellence during Black History Convocation


February 22, 2024 – Grambling, La. – Teamwork can make the dream work.

That was the message delivered by Pastor McArthur Simmons, who served as keynote speaker during Grambling State University’s Black History Convocation at T.H. Harris Auditorium.

As part of his message of unity, Simmons urged GSU students to understand the importance of Black history.

“Celebrate — Black History Month serves a special purpose in American society,” Simmons said. “It’s important because it is American history. It’s important because it’s African American history. It’s important because of our forebearers who went before us to make America what it is. It’s important for us to recognize what our ancestors have done for us — the struggles achieved that changed the course of America. Because oftentimes, the past is forgotten.”

“Black History Month is a time to celebrate the fullness of American history, African American history and our culture. But that cannot be achieved in one month alone. Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as something separate from our collective American history. … Black history is American history, so it should be recognized every day.”

Simmons said that there are still issues being faced today and told the students looking on that they can help make positive change.

“Young people, young Black leadership is needed,” Simmons said. “Black self-love is needed. Black self-respect is needed. Black self-determination is needed. You should make sure the legacy of one of my heroes, among others — the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. — is not forgotten by your generation.

“You’re enjoying the freedom that he and many others marched and protested for to come about. Dr. King fought for our rights using his mind, words and prayers as his weapon. He was against violence, and he conquered much without use of a gun or any physical aggression. You are the ones to keep the legacy ongoing.”

Simmons said King’s message is needed today more than ever,

“Racism, racial injustice, discrimination — all of this still exists in this United States,” Simmons said. “Voting rights are still being suppressed. People in high places think we still deserve to ride on the back of the bus. We still see Black people being unfairly targeted in the criminal justice system.

“Forty percent of the (U.S.) prison population belongs to us. Something’s wrong with that. We have Black-on-Black crime that has increased rapidly. Something’s wrong with that. Black people on television and social media are degrading each other. Something’s wrong with that. The fight is not within ourselves, it’s not against flesh and blood. It’s against principles of power and wickedness in high places.”

As he began winding up his speech, Simmons told the students they can be part of making a change for the better for both Black history and American history.

“We are the change that we seek,” he said. “And to make that change we must be registered voters. You ought to make it your business to register yourselves to vote. But don’t just register to vote — go vote. Go vote as if you were running for your life.”

“The presidential election is coming up in November that if the wrong person is elected will change the course of America. If we allow dictatorship to become president, we’ll be in a world of trouble. Your vote is your only weapon we have to fight with. It’s your vote, it’s your voice. And when we fail to vote, we’re giving our political power away.”