Student Success

Keeper of the Dream

Two business students honored with awards, scholarships

Two Black females in separate photos. One smiling at camera, one looking away.

OU’s 2021 Keeper of the Dream award celebration shone a well-deserved light on business students Ja’Laaiyah Gordon (left) and Alaya Freeman (right). (Photo credit: Rob Hall)

Management & Marketing

icon of a calendarMarch 15, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Claudette Zolkowski

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Two School of Business Administration undergraduate students were among the nine OU students recognized at the University’s 29th annual Keeper of the Dream (KOD) Awards Celebration. OU’s KOD celebration honors the legacy of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by recognizing OU students who exemplify Dr. King’s vision. The award includes a scholarship honoring the student’s efforts in promoting interracial tolerance and understanding.

This year’s KOD awards celebration shone a well-deserved light on OU business students Alaya Freeman, marketing major and entrepreneurship minor, and Ja’Laaiyah Gordon, marketing major and dance minor.

Protecting civil rights
Driven to action by the hopelessness she felt at the loss of Black lives to racial injustice, Freeman visualized and launched a project to raise funds to support the National Police Accountability Project, a non-profit that protects civil rights for everyone.

Describing what launched her into action, Freeman says, “I carried these feelings with me like a weight. I decided to do something about it. I needed to do something that would make an impact on a larger scale.”

Freeman designed, created and sold shirts featuring the names of those who lost their lives including Botham Jean, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Freeman’s reach extends beyond racial injustice. She also gives her time to worthy causes by participating in OU’s Day of Service and Kettering’s Volunteer Day. She has served as an OU telefund ambassador where she uses her skills to build support for Oakland University.

Path to understanding
As a CORE Ambassador in OU’s Center for Multicultural Initiatives (CMI), Gordon uses her voice to be an advocate for equality and speaking out against systemic racism. “I want my voice to be heard. I want to contribute to the change I want to see,” says Gordon, who uses her talent in dance to carve a path of understanding.

Since coming to OU, Gordon has choreographed and performed her own African dance routines on the main stage of Varner Hall. In doing so, she actively worked with other students and faculty to bring an understanding of the roots of the performance.

Through dance, Gordon created other opportunities for understanding. As a permanent GroupX instructor at OU’s Recreation and Wellness Center, she is one the few African American instructors and the lone student instructor. She uses this platform to encourage self-care and provide stress relief to students, faculty and community members.

Read about all the inspirational Keeper of the Dream honorees on the CMI website.

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