January 9, 2017
Martin Luther King, Jr., Day is officially celebrated on Monday, Jan. 16, but West Chester University will hold its annual celebration on Thursday, Jan. 26, after students, faculty, and staff have returned to campus for the spring semester.
The day begins at 10 a.m. with the 24th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brunch (sold out), a scholarship fund-raising event, in Sykes Student Union Ballrooms. The event celebrates Dr. King's life and legacy through images, spoken word and music with the WCU Gospel Choir, and honors WCU alumni whose professional lives and vocational activities have reflected Dr. King's ideals. This year's Drum Majors for Justice honorees are brothers Suni '03 and Shariff '02 Blackwell and James Lindsay '97.
The title Drum Major for Justice is taken from one of Dr. King's sermons, which he gave in 1968, the same year he was assassinated. In that speech, Dr. King talks about his life and how he hopes to be remembered:
"If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don't want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. … If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness."
As in previous years, the University's Office of Service Learning and Volunteer Programs is coordinating a service project to make no-sew blankets for children at Nemours A.I. DuPont Children's Hospital, patients at Abramson Cancer Center at Chester County Hospital, and "Fleece for Keeps" for children in foster care. Two sessions are scheduled: 2:30 to 4 p.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Sykes Student Union Ballroom. Members of the University community can register here.
The day's events conclude with a free event and free hugs – really. Ken E. Nwadike, Jr. created the interactive Free Hugs Project to engage students in conversations of understanding and compassion amid the rising tide of hatred and racism. Nwadike will take questions following his presentation, which is free and open to the public. He speaks in Asplundh Concert Hall at 8 p.m.
For the first time, two brothers are being honored for their accomplishments: Suni and Shariff Blackwell. Both maintain careers while holding executive positions with C.B.S. United, Inc., a non-profit organization they launched in honor of their late mother. It is based in Chester, Pa., where they grew up and now give back.
Established in 2009, C.B.S. United, Inc. serves and empowers adults and youth in the Delaware and Philadelphia County areas, offering mentorship, scholarship, life skills, and employment/networking resources. A central goal is to guide at-risk youth toward good citizenship by providing opportunities to participate in academic, athletic, character/social developmental, and health awareness activities. The organization conducts local diabetes awareness events, back-to-school book bag drives, toy drives, and supports juvenile diabetes research.
Suni K. Blackwell '03
Suni Blackwell is President of C.B.S. United, Inc. He is also director of Wellness, Athletics & Recreation at Delaware County Community College. He was previously dean of students and athletic director at Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School. He has worked with the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the Chester Upland School District as a School Community Climate Manager and Anti-Bullying Compliance Officer.
He earned his bachelor's in liberal studies from West Chester and a master's of education in sport and recreational administration from Temple University.
At WCU, Suni helped lead the men's basketball team to two PSAC East championships and two NCAA Division II tournaments.
He was also assistant men's basketball coach/athletics coordinator at Drew University in Madison, N.J., and head junior varsity boys basketball coach/assistant varsity boys basketball coach for the 2011-12 Pennsylvania District 1 and AAAA state champions Chester High School Clippers.
Shariff Blackwell '02
Shariff Blackwell is Vice President of C.B.S. United, Inc. He is also a case manager supervisor at Comhar, Inc., a human services organization in Philadelphia, and a part-time outpatient therapist at Silver Springs Martin Luther School.
He attended West Chester University on a football scholarship and graduated in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in sociology.
After graduation, Shariff began working in the Philadelphia school district where he found he had a keen interest in the mental health field. He worked for Resources for Human Development in various positions in behavioral health for 10 years. He fulfilled a promise to his late mother by completing his master's degree in marriage and family counseling through Liberty University.
Shariff is a proud member of New Life Kingdom Center in Upper Darby, Pa., a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and is a Prince Hall Mason.
James Lindsay '97
James Lindsay has been a reentry parole officer specialist in Chester County for 20 years, positively impacting thousands of individuals who reenter the community following incarceration. His unit provides a bridge for offenders from incarceration to the community, and its officers help smooth the transition by connecting parolees with services as well as mentors, employers, and landlords.
Lindsay owns his own company, Studio 9 Enterprise, LLC., a sports and entertainment management and production company. He also conducts healing drum circles for community events and parties. In another concurrent role, he is the North American sports media director for the World Boxing Foundation, which sanctions professional boxing matches around the world.
While earning his bachelor of science in criminal justice at West Chester, Lindsay served as a peer mentor for the Academic Development Program and was a starting running back for the football team, earning first and second team honors.