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by Jullien Gordon
Sunday, June 15, 2003
Royce Hall at UCLA

Welcome. In addition to my own father, there is another father I’d like to honor today and his name is Steve Biko. Steve Biko is the father and martyr of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa. Though he has pasted on, his ideas live on and you will not only hear them, but you will also see them reflected in my speech.

My speech is entitled can you see what I see? (put on noose)

I want to know, if you can you see what I see?
This noose, which once draped the collars of our ancestors, has repositioned itself around our minds. Whereas it used to hang our ancestors from tree branches, now our future hangs in the balance.

Can you see the parallel? Can you see what I see?
During our K-12 education, many of our peers drowned in pages upon pages of impracticality and irrelevance. Middle school became a daunting Middle Passage. In the lower decks of the public education system, our youth huddle in classrooms for thirty by the forties.

Can you see the similarity? Can you see what I see?
Those lucky enough to acquire a higher education were our community’s strongest candidates and most defiant leaders. Schools nationwide bid for us with pricey financial aid packages so that they could all us their own.

Can you see the analogy? Can you see what I see?
After commitments were made, these institutions stripped us from our homes, but rather than traveling by boat, we arrived by plane, car, and train. Untimely and in our prime, we were required to separate from our families who depended on us and much as we depended on them.

Can you see the comparison? Can you see what I see?
Upon arrival, we were mentally challenged to work harder than we ever worked before. Instead of picking cotton, we picked classes, however picking cotton seemed fruitful in comparison to choosing classes, unless we could find meaning in the material.

Can you see the resemblance? Can you see what I see?
The chancellor represents an executive authority, each building is a state, each classroom is a plantation, and each teacher owned each one of us, each quarter. Our campus is even divided into North and South campus, where the North represents liberal arts and sociology and South campus represents logic and sciences. Post-Civil War American history can tell you where many of us spent a majority of our time.

Can you see the coincidence? Can you see what I see?
It’s no coincidence that one of the most decorated degrees in education is called a masters, in which only a small percentage of African Americans hold.

So if this is the case, then how do we prevent history from repeating itself?

Well, graduating with me today are 125 ways we can alter history.

Graduating with me today are 125 acts of defiance declaring that we reclaim our identity and re-write our forecasted destiny.

Today, we can remove this restraining rope (remove noose and hold high) as a statement of our mental freedom, for as Steve Biko said, “ The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

Today we can celebrate, as we gather with our families and friends.

Today we can rejoice, and thank God for helping us overcome.

Today we can observe the beauty of being Black.

I see today as our physical departure and our mental arrival, for we have made it through the unsettled waters of higher education.

I see our diplomas are more than purely paper.

I see our diplomas as self-written Emancipation Proclamations, proclaiming that today, we are free.

I see before me political leaders, athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and more

I see sisterhood, brotherhood, family, and community

I see a commitment to a common struggle to pursue a utopia that we will not likely see

I see love, hope, prosperity, and potential

And I even see tears of joy

Close your eyes. See what you believe. And tell me, can you see what I see?

Thank you.


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Jullien's Purpose Statement

My purpose is to help as many people as possible reach their full potential by helping them making a living doing what they love and in the process of doing so achieve my own. I want to do this through writing, speaking, and creating offline and online spaces that facilitate conversations around purpose.

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