Freedom Fund speaker: We’re all Americans
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- "What a wonderful way to end a wonderful day," Saundria Wilson, president of Niles NAACP, told guests at the beginning of Niles NAACP's annual Freedom Forum Banquet Saturday evening.
The banquet was held at the Niles Inn and Conference Center on South 11th Street.
But the day became even better when guest speaker Chandra J. Johnson, assistant to the president and assistant director of Cross Cultural Ministry, Campus Ministry, at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., gave her speech.
Johnson, a native of Los Angeles, relocated to South Bend in 1992, at the age of 38, to obtain an undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame.
She graduated four years later, in 1996, with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology and a minor in African American studies.
Before coming to Notre Dame, she worked in corporate America for 20 years, while simultaneously teaching religious education to children and young adults in the inner city of Los Angeles.
Currently, apart from her commitments at the University of Notre Dame, she is a popular speaker on campus, addressing issues of diversity and the character, as well as spiritual and social development for young adults in contemporary American society.
In her speech, Johnson focused on the importance of educating African Americans that they are on equal terms with everyone else.
She said when people aren't educated, they don't know where they come from. "And when you don't know where you come from, you don't know who you are," she said.
She also spoke about the cultural changes taking place in the U.S and the world today, and how those changes are changing the way people relate to each other.
With the world changing rapidly, she also asked what today's children should be taught.
Johnson said her answer is to bring people together, so that they can share their life experiences with each other.
She also spoke about how the country was founded on "categories."
One of the important things, Johnson, said, is to find a way to explode those categories.
Amidst all the changes, however, Johnson is worried about the future.
She is afraid people once again are segregating themselves because it is easier to be with people who share the same cultural and historical background.
The most important thing people can do to stop that, she said, is to recognize we are all genetically connected; we are all Americans.
In fact, science has shown the genetic make-up of human beings to be 99.4 percent the same, and we all descend from the same place in Africa, she said.
The annual Freedom Forum Banquet is an important fund raiser for local, regional and national NAACP branches.
Dr. Booker T. Morris was the banquet's master of ceremonies.