Voting Rights Activist LaTosha Brown: ‘Can We Lead with Love?’

LaTosha Brown gestures while speaking behind a Babson podium

It was 60 years ago this year that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.”

Six decades may have passed since that milestone moment in August 1963, but there is much work to be done to make his dream of equality a reality. Many of the same problems and issues that he was confronting then still exist today, said voting rights activist LaTosha Brown, the keynote speaker at Babson College’s 20th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Day celebration Wednesday.

The substance of King’s mission and message, she said, was love. “Can we lead with love?” Brown asked. “That means we will create grace and space for ourselves and other people. It means that we would actually have a radical reimagination of what is possible in this country and in the world.”

Brown, cofounder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, is an award-winning visionary thought leader, institution builder, cultural activist, artist, and connector. She capped Babson’s MLK Legacy Day celebration with a rousing, challenging, and inspiring hourlong speech in front of more than 200 students, faculty, and staff at the Sorenson Center for the Arts.

The Challenge of Vision

Introduced by Black Student Union President Amoy Campbell ’23, Brown took the stage singing “This Little Light of Mine” on the first day of Black History Month. She then asked the audience to close their eyes and ponder what America would look like without racism. It’s a question she poses in every speech and a question, she said, that very few people have truly confronted.

“How in the world will we ever get to the point that we will have a nation free of racism when we cannot … even capture a vision of what it would look like?” she said. “What would a work day look like? What would institutions look like? What would medical and health care look like? We can’t even envision it, because it’s such a part of who we are, and it’s such a part of what we have accepted as truth.”

To truly celebrate King’s life and legacy, Brown said, “It’s going to require us to do some work, and it’s going to require us to do some visioning work. It is going to require us to ask ourselves that question every single day: What would America look like without racism?

“The good news is we can actually create that.”

Creating Change and Value

Creating that change starts by focusing on people, and valuing every individual life.

“I actually have the audacity to believe that I am a part of a larger movement to advance humanity and that every single human being deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” Brown said. “If we value human life, how will you show up in the world? What kind of policies will you support? It’s going to require you having some courage to step outside of your comfort zone.”

Brown acknowledged that it should be uncomfortable. “Discomfort is good because what it does is it pushes us to the point that we have to sit in it and we have to think about it,” she said. “And, that’s where the opportunity for change happens.”

“If we value human life, how will you show up in the world? … It’s going to require you having some courage to step outside of your comfort zone.”
LaTosha Brown, cofounder of the Black Voters Matter Fund

Putting people first by creating value, elevating the human condition, and leading change are cornerstones of entrepreneurial leadership, Babson President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD said in his opening remarks. And, Brown stands as a prime example.

“LaTosha’s journey is one we can all aspire to exemplify,” Spinelli said. “Just as we teach here at Babson, she has used her entrepreneurial leadership to create socio-economic change, bettering her local community, while also inspiring others across the country and beyond.”

MLK Leadership Award Winners

The annual MLK Legacy Day celebration also presented the winners of the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Awards, as well as the creativity content winners.

Sadie Burton-Goss poses with the MLK Leadership Award
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Sadie Burton-Goss, the staff recipient of the MLK Leadership Award (Photo: Mark Manne)

Babson’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Sadie Burton-Goss was named the staff recipient of the MLK Leadership Award. In her presentation of the award, Associate Professor Tina Opie recognized not only Burton-Goss’ numerous contributions on campus but also praised her “grace and dignity and integrity. … And, for that reason, (she) has really role modeled what it is to be an agent for change much like Dr. King did.”

In accepting the award, Burton-Goss said, “If I have a reason for joy for being a part of the Babson community, it’s because of each of you, and all the ways you’ve reached out and supported me and the work that we must do together.”

The other MLK Leadership Award winners this year are:

  • Zykera Steward ’23 (undergraduate student recipient) was praised for her leadership by Madison Spence ’24: “Zykera is resilient, extremely driven, empathetic, selfless, compassionate, and is an individual who is truly here for the betterment and growth of her community.”
  • Santucee Bell MBA’23 (graduate student recipient) was recognized for her “compassion for humanity” by Shakenna Williams ’94, the executive director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership and founder of Babson’s Black Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program, where Bell has played an integral role. “Tucee believes that everyone should have the equal opportunity to make a mark,” Williams said.
  • Wiljeana Glover (faculty recipient), the Stephen C. and Carmella R. Kletjian Foundation Distinguished Professor of Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the founding faculty director of the Kerry Murphy Healey Center for Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was praised for securing Babson’s first grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Professor Glover is a healthcare innovation scholar,” Professor Vincent Onyemah said. “Her work takes the system’s perspective to examine how improvement and innovation practices can achieve more equitable and effective outcomes in healthcare settings.”
  • Dana Francois MBA’19 (alumni recipient) was recognized by Shannon Paleologos, director of classes, affinity programs, and annual giving: “She thoughtfully sets her intentions on how to employ her talents for the betterment of Haiti, the rising of seasoned leaders in the social impact and social innovation space, and the people immediately around her.”

Also announced were the MLK creativity contest winners: Jackson Kuja ’25, first prize, for the poem “Voices Heard, Choices Made”; Skylar Jackenthal ’23, second prize, for the poem “Election Day”; and Taylor Lunt ’24, third prize, for the drawing “Each American’s Right.”

Photo of the drawing by Taylor Lunt
The drawing “Each American’s Right” by Taylor Lunt ’24 (Photo: Mark Manne)

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