SLU Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s Legacy at Memorial Tribute

Saint Louis University celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during its sixth annual memorial tribute on Thursday, Jan. 12. Approximately 450 guests were in attendance.

George Fraser

Keynote speaker George Fraser, chairman and CEO of FraserNet, Inc., discusses how economic empowerment is key in achieving equality. Photo by Maria Tsikalas

The event was co-hosted by SLU’s Office of Diversity and Community Engagement and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc. It was sponsored by Ameren Missouri.

Jonathan Smith, Ph.D., SLU’s chief diversity officer, opened the program and introduced the master of ceremonies Michael McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League. Michael Barber, S.J., gave an invocation, followed by a welcome address from University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.,  a brief address by Ameren’s vice president and chief diversity officer Sharon Harvey Davis, and a musical performance by a graduate student in the School of Education, Garvaundo Hamilton (Cook '15).

"It is fundamental to our Jesuit mission and values that we be coworkers with God on issues of poverty, education, economic empowerment and equity," Pestello said. "As King challenged, we will continue to abide by this course, with humility, hope and trust in God and humanity."

This year’s keynote speaker, George Fraser, focused on economic empowerment as the only way to achieve true equality, and advocated for strong financial literacy within the black community.

“Focusing on wealth is critical, why? Not so we can buy more stuff. We don’t need any more stuff,” Fraser said. “We cannot do it on politics alone. In a market-based economy and a democratic, capitalistic society, the only color that really matters is green! I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying, that’s the way it is. So until our pile of green is as big and as high and as leveraged as any other cultural group’s pile of green, we will never be considered an equal at the table of democratic capitalism."

Fraser, an author and chairman and CEO of FraserNet, Inc., continued by emphasizing the need to become a community of owners and savers rather than of consumers and renters.

"You cannot consume yourself into equality and you cannot consume yourself into power. We must engage in entrepreneurship, and we must develop a new kind of consciousness."

Following the keynote speech, Fraser and several local leaders listed below received awards acknowledging their efforts in striving toward justice and equality in the St. Louis area and beyond. 

The ceremony closed with a civil rights video, final remarks thanking the program organizers and a benediction.

Awardees

  • Special Tribute Award: George Fraser, chairman and CEO of FraserNet, Inc.
  • Donald Brennan Humanitarian Award: Mary Gould, Ph.D., director of SLU's Prison Program and co-founder of the SLU Prison Arts and Education Program
  • Education Award: Kelvin Adams, Ph.D., superintendent of schools for the St. Louis Public School District
  • Diversity and Inclusion Award: Elizabeth J. Stroble, Ph.D., president of Webster University
  • Arts/Culture Award: Eugene B. Redmond, poet laureate of East. St. Louis, educator and writer
  • Community Service Award: Natalie DuBose, owner of Natalie's Cakes and Natalie's Sweet Success
  • Community Service Award: Gentry W. Trotter, founder of Heatupstlouis.org
  • Social Service Award: Halbert Sullivan, founding president and CEO of Fathers' Support Center St. Louis
  • Corporate Award: Julio Suárez, senior director of community affairs at Anheuser-Busch
  • Corporate Award: U.S. Bank, philanthropic supporter of African Americans, Ferguson