“History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be.”
– John Henrik Clarke
John Henrik Clarke was a writer, historian, professor and pioneer in field of Africana Studies.
Founder of the African Heritage Studies Association, he was highly regarded for his lifelong devotion to studying and documenting the histories and contributions of African people in Africa.
Clarke died in 1998, but his legacy lives on around the world – and at NIU.
In 2002, the John H. Clarke Honor Society was established at NIU by a group of African-American students in an effort to recognize those with high academic standards and an ongoing commitment to service in the community. Students with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 out of a 4.0 scale were invited to apply, and with the principle motto of “Always do your best, what you plant now will harvest later,” the society was founded.
After a brief hiatus, the John H. Clarke Honor Society was reestablished on campus in 2010, thanks to the diligent efforts of students and faculty members.
“There are so many benefits to being part of this,” Curry said. “Students learn leadership skills and social responsibility. They learn to multi-task and work as a member of a team which is really important.”
Graduate student Abria Martin, who earned her bachelor’s degree from NIU in May 2015, was a four-year member of the Clarke Honor Society and now continues to assist with the program.
“I joined my freshman year and now I help as a way of giving back,” Martin said. “It’s a great thing for people to consider joining; it’s like a family and, once you are involved in it, you have another support system on campus.”
Martin said it’s also an opportunity to be a role model and mentor for other African-American students, which is important.
“At the end of the day, you can do all of these great things, but if you are not doing it for a purpose or for a greater cause, then are you really contributing?” Martin said. “This gives you a way to mingle with freshman and shape the next generation of students. We can reach people through this and they can carry the torch.”
Students with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 received an invitation in February to apply for the John H. Clarke Honor Society. An induction ceremony is planned Sunday, April 10, at the Duke Ellington Ballroom.
“It’s a great thing for people to consider joining,” Martin said. “Besides being an academic support system, it’s an opportunity build leadership skills, develop professionally and give back to the community before leaving the university.”
Application deadline is Wednesday, March 16. For more information, contact the Center for Black Studies at (815) 753-1709 or CenterBlackStudies@niu.edu.
by Jane Donahue