Dr. Marlon A. Smith
Dr. Marlon A. Smith, Founder, Black Greeks Speak (BGS) Social Justice and Human Rights Council and Senior Manager of Policy and Engagement at BakerRipley.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 21, 2019, is a national holiday that honors the life and work of Dr. King. He often posed the question, “What Are You Doing For Others?” Read how Dr. Marlon Smith, 2016 graduate of the Ph.D. Humanities & Culture major, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Studies Specialization, whose dissertation is now a book, is answering that call.
Q: What is the Black Greeks Speak (BGS) Social Justice and Human Rights Council?
A: We are a member based policy and education studies organization that brings together Black Greek Letter Organizational (BGLO) members with the larger community in order to build a stronger coalition of civically engaged men and women that will help make real Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Beloved Community.
Q: What is the significance of a BGLO and BGO?
A: BGLO stands for Black Greek Letter Organizations and BGO is Black Greek Organizations. They were formed by African American college students in the early 1900s when segregation denied Black people entry into the broader college, university and public life.
Many famous African Americans have been members of BGO’s including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Shirley Chisolm, Colin Kaepernick, Alicia Keys, Omari Hardwick, Jada Pinkett Smith, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Maya Angelou, and many, many more.
Q: What is the purpose of the Black Greeks Speak Social Justice and Human Rights Council?
A: The purpose is to bring together BGLO members with the larger community in order to build a stronger coalition of civically engaged men and women. The hope is to build stronger institutions that can more effectively address issues in communities of color. That means we have to help create a world wherein all people have the ability to exist as equally free moral agents without concern for racial, gender, and religious discrimination and hatred.
Q: What is the vision of the Black Greeks Speak?
A: BGS is dedicated to transforming a 19th Century Black Greek Letter Organizational member model for social justice and human rights engagement into a 21st century model that more effectively addresses contemporary justice and human rights issues in our world. In other words, we want to create a more innovate approach for BGLO members and our allies to build models for civic engagement.
Q: How did the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Studies Specialization, affect you?
A: The MLK program has provided me the opportunity to think deeply about ways that I might unite theories of social justice to real world advocacy and activism. Most importantly, it has distinguished my academic course work among others who study theories within black intellectual traditions.
Q: Your dissertation was entitled, “Reshaping King’s Beloved Community: The Experiences of Black Male Felons and their Impact on the Black Radical Intellectual Traditions.” What do you want people to know about this subject?
A: First, I want people to know the dissertation is now a book, published by Lexington Books. Second, I want people to understand that every human being has value, and simply placing labels on people such as the label “felon” doesn’t take away or lessen that human value.
Q: If you could give advice to a Union student, what would it be?
A: I think the advice I would give a Union student is to seek new knowledge and experiences where you can find it. If you are not careful going to school online can isolate you. So take much care to extend your network and experiences so you can truly become an interdisciplinary scholar.
About Dr. Marlon A. Smith
Dr. Smith is a servant leader dedicated to Union’s mission to transform lives and communities. He is known for his ability to bring together community leaders for dialogue on issues ranging from social justice and public policy issues.
His leadership on reentry and criminal justice reforms, with particular focus on the collateral consequences of incarceration on communities and families, has led to a new focus on the intellectual and political contributions Black male felons offer to the Black radical intellectual traditions. He has served as a minister in many capacities and in 2001, became program director for United Nations Advocacy for the General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church where he researched and participated in international justice projects on race and poverty.
His civic involvement encompasses leadership roles with a wide range of local, state and national organizations including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., NAACP, Houston’s My Brothers’ Keeper, and the American Leadership Forum. He is also an Encore Public Voices Fellow. He is the author of two books: Black Lives Houston: Voices of Our Generations and Reshaping Beloved Community: The Experiences of Black Male Felons and Their Impact on Black Radical Traditions.
Read more about Dr. Smith and his work at this link.