Professor Ron Daniels Delivers His Final Lecture at York College CUNY

Distinguished Lecturer Dr. Ron Daniels during his last lecture Toward a More Perfect Union: Finishing the Unfinished Black Freedom Struggle. Photo credit: Wanda Estil.

By Anthony Medina & Anslem Joseph

Dr. Ron Daniels, a distinguished professor and active host of the radio talk show Vantage Point on WBAI, 99.5, delivered his final lecture at the York College Performing Arts Center on Thursday, May 17.

“I would like to express my profound appreciation to President Marcia Keizs and my colleagues in the Department of Behavioral Sciences for the honor and privilege of serving as York College’s first Distinguished Lecturer,” said Daniels in a prepared statement. “I am not retiring from the ‘movement,’ but will focus on building the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) as my legacy project in the winter of my life’s work.”

Daniels’ last lecture Toward A More Perfect Union: Finishing the Unfinished Black Freedom Struggle, coincided with the 64th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision in which the Supreme Court banned school segregation.

York’s Vice President for Student Development Dr. Vincent Banrey, President Marcia Keizs, and Pastor at St. Mark, Reverend Kimberly L. Detherage, were present and spoke late Thursday night. During the lecture, Daniels’ previous students Akshar Patel, Betsy Millord and Ashley Torres gave heartwarming speeches praising Daniels for helping them gain internships and opportunities outside the classroom.

Daniels taught at York for over a decade in the Behavioral Science Department under the Political Science Program. Throughout his tenure, Daniels shared his knowledge in the fields of civil rights, electoral politics and Haitian politics with students from York and multiple universities.

Throughout his career, Daniels helped place students with elected officials in government, and community agencies through the Political Science Internship Program. He also helped organize a pilgrimage of 40 students, faculty and staff to march in the 50th anniversary of the Selma Montgomery March in 2015.

“The Pilgrimage to Selma was my crowning achievement,” Daniels said.

The last course taught by Daniels, Political Science 367, for Spring semester 2018 broached the historical context behind black freedom struggles from the enslavement era to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Daniels again addressed the inequalities still faced by the Black community and the discrepancies seen between recent U.S. Presidents in his final lecture.

“America was made for a white man with power, privilege, and property,” said Daniels.

He emphasized that the divide between President Obama’s treatment from public officials to that of President Donald Trump’s was disproportionate. In Daniels perspective, when a black man runs for office, he is seen in a negative light but when an “orange man” runs for office, the things he does are neglected.

Other major topics for the night were the growing unemployment rate for Blacks Americans, cases of police brutality and the need to grow stronger Black communities.

“The average income for whites is $63,000 and $35,000 for blacks. For unemployment rate, 3.9% of whites are unemployed and 7.5% of blacks are unemployed,” said Daniels. “The number of unemployed blacks goes up to 15% when you add those who aren’t looking for jobs.”

Although Daniels said more work needs to be done in the Black Community, he acknowledged that more Black people are in office today than anytime in the world.  

In his early years, Daniels was the African American Executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights from 1993-2005. He also served as the executive director of the National Rainbow Coalition and deputy campaign manager of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1988 Presidential Campaign.

“Dr. Ron Daniels is a steadfast defender and proud champion of the liberation of people of African descent and other people of color in the United States, Haiti, the Caribbean, Africa, and around the world,” said Dr. Michael Sharpe, an associate professor in the Behavioral Sciences department. “I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from him as a faculty colleague. Dr. Daniels continues to teach us important lessons about engaging the public square and tieing the academy and the ‘life of the mind’ to community organizing and coalition building towards meaningful change.”

Dr. Sharpe also said he would miss his hard work in encouraging students throughout their careers.

“He joined the department as Distinguished Lecturer even before any of the other current full-time faculty. During that time, he implored us all to think about the Black experience in American and world history in everything that we teach and do,” said Dr. Robin Harper, an associate professor in the Behavioral Sciences department under the Political Science program. “Year in and year out he invited York students to events where they could experience making a difference, from conferences and policy summits to the trip to Selma, AL to commemorate the 50th anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday.’ Dr. Daniels encouraged all students to get involved, and stay involved.”

Harper, on behalf of the Political Science department, wished Daniels a farewell goodbye and thanked him for the good work he’s done for the York community.

“It’s not just the talking and the writing – which are important – but in the doing. Dr. Daniels showed students that what we do as political scientists matters,” said Harper.

Daniels received many awards at the ceremony including the Council’s Citation Proclamation for his extraordinary contribution to York College, the community and the country.

Host Mark Thompson announced that May 17 will be recognized as the annual Ron Daniel’s Day for the York College Community.

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