Quick question: When one of America’s most prestigious Ivy League universities honors Colin Kaepernick, Dave Chappelle and six other African Americans for their contributions to black history and culture, will white people burn their Harvard rejection letters, their Chappelle’s Show DVD sets or the ivy in their yards?
According to the Associated Press, Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Studies announced the names of the eight recipients of this year’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal. Named after the scholar, pan-Africanist, NAACP founder and first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard, William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” Du Bois, the medal honors individuals from around the world in recognition of their contributions to “African American culture and the life of the mind.”
Awarded since 2000, the Du Bois Medal is Harvard’s highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. Past recipients include Chinua Achebe, Ava DuVernay, Eric Holder, Muhammad Ali and the Honorable James “LL Cool J” Smith, who was selected primarily based on ladies’ love, in combination with his coolness in overcoming a near-fatal childhood illness: he was diagnosed with being unable to live without his radio.
This year’s honorees are:
Colin Kaepernick: The former NFL quarterback’s protests against racial injustice and inequality caused a national discussion about respectability, police brutality and the importance of hydration. The sheer number of white tears caused widespread, temporary insanity, resulting in reports of Nike-based acts of arson around the country.
Dave Chappelle: Chappelle’s ability to combine racial insight, reason and comedy makes him one of America’s most celebrated living comedians. He has become America’s unfiltered griot and teller of uncomfortable truths.
Kevin Hart was considered, but there were no booster seats available in the auditorium.
Bryan Stevenson: Founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., Stevenson’s lynching memorial and Legacy Museum opened in 2018 to rave reviews from some while prompting others to ask why he was “always bringing up old stuff.”
Kenneth Chenault: The former CEO of American Express is also on Facebook’s Board of Directors and stresses diversity in corporate boardrooms. He was also responsible for literally issuing black cards but resigned before he had the opportunity to rescind Kanye’s.
Shirley Ann Jackson: Jackson was the first black woman to earn a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was the second black woman to earn a Ph.D. in Physics. She was the first black woman to win the National Medal of Science.
She is smarter than you.
Pamela Joyner: The San Francisco philanthropist was one of the first black women to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School and went on to become one of the biggest collectors and promoters of black art in the world. Her art collection has been on display at museums across the country and basically, if she buys your work, you are a legitimately famous artist.
Joyner declined my offer of $73.92 for my kindergarten crayon drawings, even though the sun in the corner of the page was wearing sunglasses.
Florence Ladd: The legendary novelist and poet has not only published more books than Donald Trump has ever read, but she has also educated students around the world for more than 50 years. Aside from helping build entire national education platforms in South Africa and Zimbabwe, she served as a professor, dean and instructor at Harvard, MIT and Wellesley College. If nothing else, I would like the last line of my bio to read like hers:
She currently resides in Cambridge, Mass. and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Burgundy.
Kehinde Wiley: Wiley is the artist who painted the portrait of Barack Obama that hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
Drop the mic.
I’m sure Wiley has done a lot of other fine artwork, but he is in the Smithsonian, son! If I were Wiley, I’d only wear a t-shirt with the Obama painting on it and the words “I painted this” every day and nothing else — not even pants. I’d be walking around like the black Winnie the Pooh. I still can’t understand why he hasn’t changed his name to Kehinde MyPaintingOfBarackObamaIsHangingInTheSmithsonian.
The ceremony honoring the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal recipients will be held at Harvard’s Memorial Hall on October 11. Tickets are free and I’ll probably be there wearing a Tux, a Kehinde T-shirt and Nikes. I am unsure if the ceremony will begin with a playing of the national anthem, but if it does, Kaepernick should be easy to find - and so will I.
I’ll be the guy trying to sell the crayon drawings to Pamela Joyner.