A Lincoln University dean spoke at a Juneteenth kick-off event Sunday, telling the audience the struggle for equality requires the current generation to actively fight to better lives for the next generation.
"What we say in the struggle has got to match what we do in the struggle," Marrix Seymore Sr. said at the annual Fathers' Day Awards Banquet at Lincoln University's Scruggs Center. Seymore, the keynote speaker, is LU's dean of the College of Education.
Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of African Americans on June 19, 1865, in Texas — nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The theme of this year's event is: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."
Other local Juneteenth events throughout the week include a Juneteenth's Got Talent competition Thursday, a Little Mr. and Miss Juneteeth Pageant on Friday and a Juneteenth Heritage Festival at Ellis-Porter Riverside Park on Saturday.
Seymore told the audience they may have created a better life for themselves, but that's not enough. They must petition for the betterment of others.
"We've got to pull them not just a little bit, but we've got to pull them all the way to the top of the wall," he said. "Then, we've have to hold them up on the wall until they can stand there on their own. And, brothers and sisters, if they should fall, then the struggle is for us to reach down and pull them up again."
He told the audience that others have done the same for them.
Rather than talking about the fight, he urged them to "show up for the fight."
"We have to stop talking about laws that are not written in our favor. We have to become the ones who write the laws so that they are in our favor," he said. "We have to stop just encouraging voices to register to vote. We have to encourage voices to actually go and vote. We have to stop living in activism of yesterday and engage in the campaign today."
He told the group of several dozen that it's not enough to live a nicer life than their ancestors.
"We stand on broad shoulders. And how dare we stand here and not square our shoulders for the next generation of fathers to stand on.
"If there is no active engagement, there can be no progress. If there is no participation in the struggle, then there can be no complaining about the lack of progress," he said.
Also at the event, the annual Father of the Year award was presented to LU employee Keith Blunt.
In introducing him, Gwen Edmonson said that during his junior year in college, Blunt decided to put school on hold when his daughter, Serenity, was born. He's since gone back to earn a degree.
Blunt stepped up to the plate again with the birth of his son, Shiloh, Edmonson said, and also took his nephew into his home to care for him.
Reading from one of two nominations for Blunt, Edmonson said: "He has cleaned noses, changed diapers and scared away monsters. He made it his business to start random games of tag, jump rope, trips to the zoo and museum, all while keeping current on the latest popular dances to the embarrassment of his daughter."