People who enjoy the freedoms and liberties that many other people can only hope for, must stand in solidarity against the injustices which plague this world, according to De’Andre Forbes. Like the Bahamians who toiled and sacrificed, until the words “emancipation, independence and majority rule” were on everyone’s tongue, and became a national call to action, that people must fight to ensure equity for all human beings.
“We will not limit our focus on the injustices that wash upon our shores but wherever and however they appear, we must all work to ensure that we promote justice today for the future of our children and our children’s children,” said De’Andr, 17, winner of the inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. High School Oratorical Contest.
The St. Augustine’s College (SAC) senior in his speech delivered on Majority Rule Day said regardless of who you are or what you do or say, that actions, whether just or unjust, have the power to affect everyone, everywhere.
De’Andre beat out six other high school students to win the speech competition sponsored by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., under the theme, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
The competition was held on January 10 at the Harry C. Moore Library at University of The Bahamas (UB).
De’Andre received a $500 prize for the win. He presented his winning speech at the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Lecture at the Performing Arts Center at UB on Monday, January 16.
Carlia Elvies, a 12th-grade senior at Bahamas Academy, was awarded second. She received a $350 prize.
Kelvin Archer, a 12th-grade senior at St. Anne’s School, placed third. He received a $200 prize.
“Sixty years ago, following imprisonment for demonstrations against segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’ Regardless of who we are or what we do or say, our actions, whether just or unjust, have the power to affect everyone, everywhere.”
On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated by a white man who did not believe in the equality of the races. James Earl Ray’s assassination of King was a catalyst for racial violence throughout the United States (US).
“According to worldhistory.com, ‘Following Dr. King’s death, there was mass outbreak of interracial violence, protesting and extensive property damage amounting to billions in over 40 states.’ Fifty-two years later, in May 2020, George Floyd was murdered by an assassin who hid behind a badge.”
In his speech, De’Andre also cited the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, as an example of the racist treatment that African-Americans continue to face in the US, 60 years after the March on Washington, D.C., in which King gave his famous “I have a Dream Speech” in which he called for equality for all Americans, regardless of race. Chauvin was convicted of Floyd’s murder and sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.
“Derek Chauvin showed a sheer disregard for the life of a Black man. Like Dr. Kings’ assassination, the death of George Floyd incited mass protests across the entire United States of America.”
Although 52 years apart, De’Andre said both events yielded the same result because they stemmed from a tree that he called injustice.
Despite the attempts of courageous civil activists and legislators, he said acts of injustice have increased at a greater rate than ever before.
In a 52-year span, De’Andre said, the same conflicts and dangers that existed in 1968 remain prevalent today.
“Despite all of our consciousness, our attempts to integrate and expand, we have still come up short. Injustices today not only threaten justice everywhere but the accessibility of justice to the future,” he said. “These conflicts are heart-wrenching and expose a perpetual cycle of inequity, calamity, and violence – fired by deep-rooted prejudice and unchecked injustice. Dr. King’s quote rings true today, ‘Injustice is indivisible, its mere presence in any system, place or person incites more of itself everywhere.’”
De’Andre compared the treatment by the judicial system of multimillionaire Peter Nygard and a local teen vendor who was fined for violating curfew during COVID lockdowns. He cited a November, 2019 article in The Tribune that reported that Nygard was initially sentenced to 90 days in jail and a $150,000 fine after being found guilty of contempt of court. He said the same newspaper reported days later that the Court of Appeal suspended the sentence, citing the mogul’s apology, explanation and payment of the fine as evidence of remorse for his actions. On the other hand, he said an 18-year-old vendor apologized for his actions, but that no grace was afforded to him. The vendor was told to pay his $700 fine or spend two months in prison.
The SAC teen used the example to show that the rich sometimes get a pass, while the poor pay a harsh price for minor violations.
He described it as an egregious example of injustice.
“These two local cases prove that injustice anywhere in any system or society promotes more injustice. On one hand a multimillionaire commits a completely avoidable crime and disrespects the courts – on the other – an underprivileged teen risks his life and admits his fault, but the results are different because the persons involved are different. Shouldn’t we as a society believe in holding accountable those that willfully break the law and assist those that have no choice? These cases reveal the truth of today’s theme, injustice in one case, often translates to injustice in another, threatening the well-being of all involved.”
De’Andre challenged the audience to fight against injustice.
“We, too, must fight to ensure equity for all genders, for all races and human beings,” he said.
De’Andre also referenced the Nevada Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission which states that equal justice under law is an American ideal but for those with low income representing themselves in court, the results can be less than fair.
“In August 2021, the extremist group known as the Taliban took over Afghanistan. BBC news said in a publication, “Many fear the group renowned for their oppressive behavior against women will continue to impose their ultra-conservative agenda toward future generations of Afghan women.” On March 23, the Taliban announced that girls above the sixth-grade would no longer be able to attend school. Can you imagine the young woman in 11th or 12th grade hoping of one day achieving her hopes and dreams? Perhaps a lawyer, perhaps an engineer, perhaps a pillar of strength to other Afghan women.
“CNN reports, ‘Any society that fails to harness the energy and creativity of its women is at a huge disadvantage in the modern world.’ There will be a few thousand less engineers, a few thousand less doctors, tens of thousands of illiterate mothers left to tackle the ever-threatening global problems we all face. We live in an age where rights and precedents are set in stone each day, a time when a young people ought to be able to dream and achieve. By robbing women of their rights, the Taliban has stolen a little bit of light and hope from the future,” said De’Andre.
He encouraged people who enjoy freedoms and liberties to stand in solidarity against injustices that plague the world.
De’Andre presented his speech during the 7th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture hosted by the brothers of Iota Epsilon Lambda and Phi Mu Chapters, on Monday, January 16, at the Performance Arts Center at UB at which the guest lecturer was Milton Carver, civil rights lawyer, and past general president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
SAC principal, Marici Thompson, was also presented with the floating plaque.