As we begin a new academic year, I wanted to share a little inspiration. Many Berea students come from difficult backgrounds, yet they overcome and succeed here at Berea College. Kierra Moore, who graduates in December, is a great example. I first met Kierra at the Carter G. Woodson Legacy Award ceremony last spring, where she delivered a spoken word piece to the students visiting that weekend.
Kierra’s story is longer than I can share fully here. She is a first-generation college student and describes growing up in a high-crime neighborhood in an abusive environment that eventually led to a struggle with homelessness. Determined to better her situation, she applied to Berea, and was accepted. It was a brave leap of faith to make the 10 ½ hour journey from Maryland alone to a place so quiet she couldn’t sleep at first. This summer, the senior communications major interned for Eli Lilly and a very bright future awaits her.
The poem Kierra presented at the award ceremony is included below. Its title,“Legacy,” is so apt because, as she explains, Berea College students don’t come to school here alone—they bring the hopes and yearnings of others with them.
“It’s not just you you’re going to school for,” she said. “A lot of Berea students are first generation. They’re going to school for everyone in their family, the generations before. The people where they’re from may not see a way out but they give them hope. I have people calling me from back home asking how they can get out of their situation. They want to know how they can go to college, too. I just love talking to them and telling them what they need to do.”
In that way, every Berea student becomes a legacy, and Kierra’s poem reminds students they, too, can be a Carter G. Woodson, a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or a Rosa Parks, inspiring and showing the way for others. What an important message!!! That’s why I wanted to include her poem here at the beginning of another school year, reminding us all that we are legacies, striving, in turn, to leave even brighter legacies for future generations.
By Kierra Moore
“If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.” – Dr. Carter G. Woodson
As we walk through the front door at peace and with ease, we tend not to remember the men, women and children that picked cotton on their hands and knees, with whip marks and blood running down their backs.
Strong, yes, we are that.
As we walk through the front door of a library to pick up a book, we must remember the education that was denied because slaves weren’t allowed to read books.
As we sit on the front seat of a bus, we don’t expect to be told sit in the back. We don’t expect to be spit on or arrested, not any of that, but do you reflect on Rosa Parks’ brave act?
You know I wasn’t supposed to be here today.
But here standing before you, no not me
Father in prison
These are just some of my truths
Yet I walk through the front door with a crown on my head because Dr. Carter G Woodson was one of many people who paved the way for the Kings and Queens in this room today.
Yes, Kings and Queens, hold your head high and wear your crown with pride
And begin to recognize that you have a legacy to uphold
A legacy that is the hope for families, communities and generations to come
A legacy so complex that it can only be compared to the diamonds found on your crowns
It will not be broken or shatter like glass
Yet, it will bring true meaning to “free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last”
You, like the people before us, must pave the way for future change
You are a leader, a world changer and a way-maker
So hold your head high and wear that crown as you walk through the front door never forget the legacy that you are a part of now.