Activist, actor to deliver leadership keynotes

Madina Seytmuradova and Priyanka Sharma

Staff Writers

In honor of African-American History Month, Troy University and the city of Troy will host the 15th annual Leadership Conference from Feb. 5-6.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Remembering our Origins, Opportunities, Truth and Spirituality.”

Civil rights pioneer Juanita Jones Abernathy is the widow of Ralph David Abernathy, who was Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest associate, and she will address conference participants at the opening ceremony on Friday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m. in Sartain Hall.

Abernathy was actively engaged in the civil rights movement from the start of the Montgomery bus boycott.

Closing remarks for the conference will be delivered by actor, dancer and director Jasmine Guy, whose career spans over theater, television and film. Guy starred in the original Broadway productions of “Beehive” and “Leader of the Pack,” as well as the reprised hit productions of “Grease,” “The Wiz” and “Chicago.” She is also known for her role as “Grams” on CW Network’s “The Vampire Diaries.”

“I think every student should at least go one year,” said Sadaris Williams, coordinator of student involvement and leadership.

Williams has been involved in the organization of the conference, especially with selecting the student speakers and planning the logistics of the day.

According to its mission statement, the conference is designed to foster multicultural collaboration, strengthen relationships and empower diverse leaders with the tools to better serve their organizations and communities.

Barbara Patterson, director of student involvement and one of the event organizers, said that she always finds the leadership conference inspirational.

“I think that we all need once in a while to recharge our batteries, and we need to hear positive messages and think about positive ways that we can make a difference in people’s lives,” Patterson said.

Williams said that he has enjoyed all the speakers from over the years.

“The conference allows students to see great, phenomenal speakers, sometimes people of whom they’ve only read about or heard about from books, magazines, and for a low price,” he said. “Students get a leadership experience and find out what their philosophy of leadership is.

“Sometimes the speakers tell the struggles of their lives and how they got where they are.”

The opinions of students who attended last year’s conference vary, but all of them said that the speakers were the best part.

Tollie Faulk, a junior political science major from Monroeville, said she was persuaded by the speakers to “dress for success, because you never know the opportunities that the day can have for you.”

“For me, I think it kind of helped remind us that while we are here in college we are supposed to be leaders and helped us realize that we all have leadership potentials and that we all need to find an area that we can step up outside our comfort zone,” she said.

Darunda Wilkins, a junior business major from Montgomery, said she felt hesitant to go at first, but was inspired by actor Hill Harper, one of last year’s speakers.

“Having him come speak to me, listen to the goals that he has accomplished, what he had overcome to be in the positions that he is in, showed that I can do it no matter where I started from, that if I truly wanted, I can end up somewhere great,” Wilkins said.

“It did remind me of past days from my childhood,” Wilkins said, “and explained to me how my grandmother and how her struggle being an African-American woman with a low education, how she was able to build up her life and now it’s giving me the chance to build my life.”

Registration is now open for public online at Participation in the conference costs $30 for adults and $15 for students until Jan. 30; a $10 late registration fee applies after that.

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