An infectious and admiring smile was plastered across the faces of a large audience at Harvard University on a recent weekday evening.
There was good reason for it.
Rihanna, the multiple Grammy award-winning singing sensation from the Caribbean thanked one of the world’s best known institutions of higher learning for a prestigious award she had just received and went on to deliver an inspiring address.
“You don’t have to be rich to be rich to be a humanitarian,” she reminded every young girl watching television and the commercials which urge people to give something, maybe 25 cents to aid a child. “You don’t have to be rich to help somebody. You don’t got be famous. You don’t even have to be college educated. “
True. Just look at Rihanna’s life story and the message becomes crystal clear. Robyn Fenty came to the U.S. more than a dozen years ago after being spotted in Barbados by an American producer and his wife and is now one of the planet’s best known pop icons. She didn’t finish high school in her birthplace but assembled people around who guided her career when it skyrocketed.
Fortunately, people across the U.S. are beneficiaries of her charitable foundation and her generosity. She established the Clara Lionel Foundation in honor of her Guyanese grandmother, Clara Brathwaite, who died a few years ago in Brooklyn of cancer. The Foundation helps children in different parts of the world get an education; extends a financial helping hand to
youngsters in need of specialized healthcare; and aided the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in her native Barbados.
The much needed help, she said, “starts with your neighbor, the person right next to you, the person sitting next to you in class, the kid down the block in your neighborhood, you just do whatever you can to help any way that you can.”
But the 29 year old superstar who has spread her wings into fashion and has become a wealthy trend-setter wasn’t alone in being honored by Harvard University.
The University presented its annual W.E. B. Dubois Medal to several honorees including Oprah Winfrey, the television mogul and movie and television actress; Harry Belafonte, one of the world’s best known entertainers and civil rights activist, who celebrated his 90th birthday last week; Congressman John Lewis, one of the last surviving leaders of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s; and Steve McQueen, the Oscar award winning producer who gave the world “12 Years a slave,” that won the 2014 Best movie award.
The large body of Black talent honored by Harvard speaks volumes about the magnificent cultural contribution of people of color, not simply to the United States but to the world.
Congratulations to the honorees, many of whom trace their family roots to the United States, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.