“Good morning Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana,” tweeted Sheryl Lee Ralph just hours before taking the stage as the featured speaker for the Black History Convocation on Thursday, Feb. 28.
Her loud, powerful and angelic vocals filled the T.H. Harris Auditorium, blowing away students and faculty with her rendition of, “I’m an Endangered Species.”
Ralph is an activist on changing the face of young Black Americans and an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness through her non-profit organization, The D.I.V.A Foundation.
The depreciation of the word “diva,” Ralph says comes from reality shows that portrays African American women in a negative light.
As she continued her speech, Ralph reminded students that this is Black History Month, and questioned women on if they were going to make history or be history, “Today women should be fighting for the next generation,” said Ralph.
“Someone fought, died and swung on a tree for you to sit here,” said Ralph. She discussed the attire of young women, by saying that they wear nothing, “But Pringles and a Band-Aid and that is called getting dressed?”
Ralph definitely planted a seed in the ears of Grambling students; many left with a new a new perspective including Aliyah Mitchell.
“I’ve always admired her since the days of Moesha, and since further research and following her I realized that she has done so much for Black women,” said Mitchell, a senior marketing major.
Women weren’t the only individuals on the receiving end of Ralph’s speech as the focused quickly turned onto men.
Ralph held up an issue of The Gramblinite and pointed out the front-page photo of men sagging, and quickly educated attendees on how slaves were bought on how strong their butt were.
“Are you majoring in Sex 101, Drugs 101, Alcohol 101 or all of the above?” Ralph asked.
She challenged students to question their motives and actions on a college campus, including their language.
One thing that stood out to students was her use of the B**** and N**** word. Students laughed when she continuously repeated the words, and how people have become so comfortable with the use of them.
“Those are now sweet words, have we come so far that N**** and B**** sounds sweet?” asked Ralph. In efforts to engage students, Ralph vehemently asked, “Who are you?” She asked a second time; silence filled the room.
Tiara Martin understood the message echoed by Ralph. “We need to have respect for ourselves, and not lower our standards to fit in,” said Martin, a GSU senior.
Ralph challenged students to know more about Black History and themselves.