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‘Prosperity and tranquility’

  • What Jan. 20, 2021 means to two distinguished UMES faculty members

    Monday, January 25, 2021
    Dr. Madhumi Mitra

    In my life, many women have inspired, encouraged and empowered me. 

    My mother, who was an embodiment of equanimity and strength, instilled in me the confidence to overcome every hurdle with valor, intention and resilience. 

    The rise of women in leadership roles is gaining momentum despite barriers. 

    As a woman, a black woman, and an Asian-Indian woman, Vice President Kamala Harris not only shattered the glass ceilings for all women, but also illustrated the aspirational power of the American dream. 

    In Hindu mythology, “Kamala” is “Laxmi, the goddess of prosperity and tranquility”, and her middle name, “Devi” in Sanskrit, means, “a goddess with many manifestations”.  

    While watching Kamala Devi Harris getting sworn in, my heart was filled with immense joy and pride for her and our great nation, where intersections of multiple identities thrive with optimism and grace. 

    As an Asian-American immigrant, I felt her ascendancy to the Vice Presidency represented a victory for everyone - especially amid celebrations of the centennial of the 19th amendment, which granted women voting rights. 

    Vice President Harris has lighted the torch of freedom and rekindled the hope for a more inclusive America I always dreamed about as a child ... a nation where diversity is celebrated, and equality with respect to gender, race, identity and orientation, and color honored; and a nation, where loving-kindness becomes the foundation of one's existence. 

    Dr. Madhumi Mitra, a professor in the Department of Biology & Environmental Science, is also coordinator of biology and chemistry education programs.


    Dr. Jennifer Keane-Dawes

    In June 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the valedictory service of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. The next day, he was given the keys to the City of Kingston, the nation's capital. 

    The Gleaner (newspaper) quoted Dr. King saying: “In Jamaica, I feel like a human being.” 

    The civil rights leader said he was proud to be among his brothers and sisters, and was inspired “by this independent Black Country,” The Gleaner reported in a special edition commemorating Jamaica's independence. 

    Sixty-five years later, Jamaica remains an inspiration internationally.  The island is an educational and cultural super-power, and now, one of our own, Kamala Harris, has risen from our ancestral soil to become the first woman, and the first Black woman, to serve as Vice President of the United States. 

    As a Jamaican and American woman, I join with fellow Jamaicans, African diasporic people and allies, to celebrate this historic achievement. Black Lives Matter. They belong to human beings. 

    Harris' path had been a mix of setbacks and opportunities. But, as her Jamaican father overcame many obstacles to become the first Black professor to be tenured in Stanford's economics department, so too has Vice President Harris adopted the immigrants' motif of resilience with precision. 

    University of Maryland Eastern Shore students, stay focused on your goals. Don't be distracted by hate. Your best life awaits you. 

    Dr. Jennifer Keane-Dawes is a professor in the Department of English & Modern Languages and former dean of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore graduate school.