Alumnus Damon Williams spoke Wednesday, Mar. 7 as part of Miami’s Diversity Week. The keynote speaker touched on his past, social media activism and open mindedness.
President Greg Crawford presented Williams with the Presidential Medallion after his address. Crawford thanked Williams for his inspiration and for exemplifying “love and honor.”
Williams’s talk was part of his national “Inclusion Excellence Tour.” He spoke on a number of current issues, including #MeToo and NFL kneeling protests.
Williams is a “Miami Merger” and a legacy student who studied sociology and black world studies during his time here. He began his talk by thanking the several members of his family that were in attendance, including his aunt and uncle, who raised him.
Williams was born to a 15-year-old mother and had a father that he described as “never a part of [his] life.” He attributed his remarkable work ethic in college and beyond to the fact that he “had no safety net” if he didn’t continue to mature and grow.
Williams highlighted the generational differences coming to light today. A self-described “digital immigrant” and member of Generation X, he welcomed the changes he feels will be brought into the workforce by the next generation, who he referred to as “centennials” and “digital intuitives.”
He praised the Twitter movement #BlackGirlMagic and this generation’s social media activism, as exemplified by “brand pain,” which Williams defines as the consequences that companies now face for their offensive choices.
Williams used the example of the H&M sweatshirt scandal that took place earlier this year. When the company used a black child to model a sweatshirt with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle,” the pressure that they faced from social media forced them to shut down stores in South Africa.
Looking out into the crowd, Williams commended international students for their unique “resilience and grit.” He reminded the audience of the importance for students to feel safe expressing their views.
Williams’s ultimate message emphasized the power of “faith, talent and hard work” and expressed optimism for the inclusivity and open-mindedness of this generation as they begin their careers.