Maryum “May May” Ali visited Shippensburg University on Thursday for the Helping Our People Excel (H.O.P.E.) Diversity Scholarship Program to deliver a speech on social issues and civil rights.
The night began with a dinner hosted by the H.O.P.E. Diversity Scholarship Committee in the Tuscarora Room at Reisner Dining Hall with Ali, students, faculty, family and friends to recognize the scholarship recipients. During the event, five out of the 23 recipients gave speeches about their backgrounds and what the scholarship meant to them.
Early childhood education major Emily Franklin described what cultural difference meant to her and shared that her mother was originally from Japan, and then was adopted and moved to the United States. She ended her speech by saying that the scholarship money is a big part in helping her live on campus.
Nineteen-year-old Latia Geiger gave a moving speech about how receiving the scholarship changed her college experience. The scholarship is not just money but prosperity and opportunity to her.
“Without this scholarship, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be at any college,” Geiger said.
She is a psychology major who dreams of having her own psychology practice and opening a tattoo parlor with her father.
Michael Miller, a computer science engineering major with a passion for video gaming, thanked his mom for providing him with everything he needed in order to succeed. After his father abandoned him and his mother, he was determined to be the best he could be. The H.O.P.E. Diversity Scholarship money helps him to buy textbooks for classes.
“Love is power,” Miller said to end his speech.
Brendan Rosenberger, a psychology major who has a 4.0 grade point average, focused his speech on equality and diversity. After hearing about an incident involving his hometown middle school and a rival school about racial slurs, he and his friends reached out to the school and helped enact a program to assist in preventing acts of inequality. He dreams of creating a just and tolerant world.
Lastly, Anthony Smith took the stage to share his story about how he lived in Philly with his mother, three sisters, his aunt and her three kids before coming to Shippensburg. His neighborhood was in poverty and not safe, however, his mother was optimistic that one day they would be able to escape the unsafe living conditions. Smith knew from the start that he wanted to be an engineer because he was always intrigued by how things worked and wanted to know everything about them.
Once the selected recipients gave their speeches, SU President Laurie Carter gave a closing statement.
“We are making waves here at Ship,” Carter said.
The next event of the night was Ali’s speech at 8 p.m. in the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center.
Ali was raised by her father, boxer Muhammad Ali, to have a positive outlook on life and it shaped her to be who she is today. A large portion of her speech was a tribute to her father and how he influenced her to become a social worker.
She described how her father demanded civil rights and equality for others and that everyone has a divine right to live life the way they want to. He used his platform for civil rights because an African-American man who allegedly flirted with a Caucasian woman was killed.
Ali started to go into her past and explained that because of her passion to be a role model for girls, she started her hip-hop music. Her speech then took an emotional turn when she shared that her cousin and his friend were murdered. She became interested in gang prevention and ended up on A&E’s television show, “60 Days In,” where she posed as an inmate and went through the jail process to observe and hear women’s stories. After the social experiment, she knew the system needed improvements and better drug rehabilitation.
A large project Ali was involved in helped decrease crime in neighborhoods. Keeping parks open longer, adding activities and welcoming the gangs in to keep them off the streets achieved this. As a result, there was a 50-95 percent drop in the homicide rates in parts of Los Angeles. Ali expressed excitement while informing the audience.
To end the night, Maryum stressed that people need to be more connected and try to bring everyone together.