Power to the people: Morehouse College & USAID

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

On Nov. 1, at 10:30 a.m. sharp, Morehouse College opened its doors to students, faculty and press alike to welcome United States Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator Samantha Power as they commemorated the two organizations’ recent partnership.

Morehouse’s Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership is the fifth institution that USAID has collaborated with under their Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Partnership Initiative. 

The Initiative seeks to promote “development, peace, stability and poverty reduction by fostering economic growth, environmental and agricultural growth and sustainability, protecting human health, providing emergency humanitarian assistance and enhancing democracy in developing countries,” according to their website, usaid.gov.

As she addressed the crowd, Power made one thing clear from the beginning, that “diversity is not a luxury,” a sentiment that would be repeated and affirmed throughout the conference. An outsider herself, Power immigrated from her native Ireland during childhood and graduated from Lakeside High School, establishing her connection to the area.

Throughout her speech, Power referenced a litany of historical and global catastrophes, calling on the international responsibility to respond swiftly and efficiently, including housing, class disparity, education and the most overarching, she asserted, the climate crisis.

“[The climate crisis] touches on so much else that matters [to the community] exacerbating poverty, endangering health, bringing about new diseases,” Power said.

She continued in reminding the audience that these devastating effects are often felt most heavily by low-income communities both in Atlanta and across the globe.

“For too long, Black communities have borne the brunt of pollution and environmental damage, including right here in Atlanta, where a recent study shows that the neighborhoods surrounding Georgia’s most hazardous waste sights are far more likely to be Black,” Power said.

Citing the Black community’s “long led charge against environmental justice,” Power detailed that the MSI will support this ongoing charge through the organizing of guest lectures and speaker series, sponsoring capstone research projects and providing mentorship to the next generation of Morehouse Men as they inherit the torch of legacy.

The joint initiative, which will be in effect for the next five years, utilizes diversity and collaboration as a strength, providing access for Morehouse students to pursue Foreign Service and careers in international development.

Additionally, the initiative will serve to “support Morehouse’s growing network within the peacebuilding and conflict resolution space and encourage collaborations regarding international social-justice movements between university students, faculty and USAID staff … and to build upon shared resources, experiences and investments, and aims to raise awareness of USAID’s work in international development,” according to usaid.gov.

Throughout the detailing of the initiative, there was an emphasis placed on facilitating mentorship and community between the two organizations — a lasting source of connection to be called upon even after the initial five year period ends.

The solution to such an intersectional issue, Power explained, requires an intersectional response, which she praised Morehouse students and alumni for having no shortage of.

“[The students have] such talent and capacity for innovation that we could not be more excited to work with,” Power said.

Reinforcing Power’s charge, David A. Thomas, 12th president of Morehouse, affirmed the college’s continued dedication to having impact and reach of international scale. 

“In the 21st century, we [at Morehouse] will have as much impact as Morehouse had on the 20th century and you cannot write the history of the 20th century without writing about Morehouse,” Thomas said.

He continued, honing in on the necessity for global engagement.

“The 20th century was the American century, the 21st is the global century … the existential threat of the 21st century is the climate change — a threat that can only be solved globally,” Thomas said.