An evening of heartfelt dialogue about civil rights and social justice

Students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered in Florida State University’s Globe Auditorium on Wednesday evening to participate in a Dinner Dialogues event hosted by FSU’s Center for Multicultural Affairs and the Seminole Torchbearers. The unique event was one of several taking place as part of the university’s weeklong Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

About 40 attendees had the unique opportunity to interact the keynote speaker, ambassador Attallah Shabazz, the daughter of the late civil rights activist Malcolm X. Shabazz, who was appointed as the ambassador-at-large by the prime minister of Belize, is an adviser on international cultural affairs and project development to that nation. She is the founder of The Pilgrimage Foundation, Tapestry Bridge, Legacy Inc. and the Malcolm X Shabazz Birthplace & Foundation. She also is a producer, writer and motivational speaker.

Each table at the Dinner Dialogues was given four questions intended to spark conversation within the group, as well as with Shabazz. The questions pertained to civil rights issues of the 21st century, King’s reliance on his faith, his peace fulaction for equality and social justice, and his contributions to the community.

Denise Mercier, coordinator of the Living-Learning Communities at Florida State, said she enjoyed the quality of intimacy that the event brought to the week’s activities.

Ambassador Attallah Shabazz
Ambassador Attallah Shabazz

“What I love about this event is that every year it gathers a pretty small and mixed group of people to engage in fairly intimate discussions among people with different perspectives,” she said. “Those discussions are then moderated by a nationally renowned speaker. I don’t know of any other university that offers such a wonderful opportunity to its students.”

Juan Guardia, director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs, said he hopes the discussions begun during the dinner continues for years to come.

“Whether it’s with classmates, in residence halls or with friends, we hope they continue that dialogue and really think outside the box about the topics that we’re talking about here,” he said. “If that leads to any course of action, then that gets us even more excited because we know that they’re taking it to the next level and being very proactive about it.”

Florida State freshman Marisa Thomas, a social sciences major, felt moved by the Dinner Dialogues and the words shared between Shabazz and the participants.

“Ambassador Shabazz helped us understand a little bit more of what it takes to bring about action and change, not just for ourselves, but for everyone,” Thomas said. “Being the daughter of Malcolm X, she experienced how Dr. King and Malcolm X fought for the same goal of trying to unite all people for the common good, and in the end creating that social change.”

The Dinner Dialogues event was followed by a Freedom March on Thursday, which began at Florida State’s Integration Statue. The march led directly to a commemorative celebration at Ruby Diamond Hall with keynote speaker Shabazz.