I got word last night that Ozell Sutton died. Bro. Sutton is someone I have known most of my adult life as he was a past general president of Alpha Phi Alpha. So I was excited when I became president of Philander Smith College in 2004, the place he famously called his "alma mama."
Sutton explained that your alma mater is the place where you matriculate, but an alma mater is a place that nourished and molded you. This nourishment led him to become a significant civil rights figure in Arkansas and in the South.
We rolled out a social justice mission in 2007 and as the concept grew we decided to create a social justice award. Of course, it had to be named for Sutton and we announced the award in 2009 at the opening convocation where Father Michael Pfleger was the preacher.
Sutton then made the first presentation to Nigel Haskett, a McDonald's employee who was shot breaking up a domestic violence situation in the restaurant in August of 2008. We were excited to be able to recognize Haskett and have Sutton there for the ceremony.
I was glad to have his support when I was president at Philander. He was a true trailblazer on many fronts, a civil rights legend, and an all around good brother.