On Thursday 1/19, I attended the MLK Living Legacy Convocation, hosted by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and cosponsored by The Provost Office, CLAS, School of Pharmacy, Africana Studies Institute, The Library, School of Fine Arts and NEAG. I did not attend to enjoy the resonant Voices of Inspiration or Voices of Freedom, although their performances were absolutely beautiful. As were the solo performances by Isaac Barber and Shayla Winn. No, I did not attend to learn from the brilliant Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr., although his keynote and Q&A was certainly illuminating. I attended the Convocation to accept the 2023 MLK Living Legacy Award on behalf of the late Dominique Courts. Dom was a dear friend of mine and remains my soul sister. I wrote a speech to honor their life but was barred from delivering it due to time constraints. I’d like to share it with you all here, although we both know it would hit different spoken aloud.
Good evening, my name is Kat Morris
And I’m grateful and honored
To accept this award on behalf of Dominique
and the Courts family, albeit bittersweet.
When Nishelli asked me to do so,
I immediately recalled a specific memory of Dom
On March 11th, 2021
I received an email from Dom
subject line: Will You Nominate Me For This? (Due Tomorrow, 3/12)
Timestamp: 8:29 p.m.
…well regardless of my initial reaction
I did write a nomination letter for the Graduate Community Service Award
because I knew In my heart that she would do it for me…
So I’d like to read an excerpt from it…
“I met Dominique Courts during my undergraduate years at UConn.
From the first moment I was introduced to her,
I was astonished by the way her presence filled the room
with a sense of community that one could not help but be drawn to.
She welcomed me into the PECE community,
that is, Philosophy of Education and Community Engagement,
fully embodying the latter part.
Since then I’ve become involved with the Graduate Students of Color Association
under her leadership.
There are many words that come to mind when I think of Dominique Courts.
Determined, resilient, intelligent, kind, passionate, argumentative and considerate
just a few to name; but caring is truly at the core.
Dominique was the first graduate student I thought of when reading the description of this award because she lives to serve her community…
This community is not limited by any exclusionary boundaries
as her source of love is seemingly abundant.
Her work is integral to the social fabric of this university,
making it clear that all Huskies belong.
She sets the standard for true community service
and deserves to be recognized for it.
I have no doubt that this will continue throughout her academic career as a PhD candidate
And her professional career as a Social Worker.
I only ask that she be granted the celebration
she is worthy of
by the grace of the Graduate Student Senate.”
Two days later,
She emailed stating that she received the
Graduate Community Service Award.
She deserved it and so much more.
In recognition of this devastating loss
Better yet, to honor the life of a brilliant person,
I ask of you all three things.
First, that this institution finally allocate
The resources necessary to provide
Life-saving mental health care
Not only for Dom,
but for Justin Niezrecki….Tianyin Shang
And every other student we’ve lost to suicide…
Second, to everyone here,
Hold your loved ones close
And be grateful for the bad times as much as the good
Because to accept someone’s flaws is to love them completely
And no one can survive without that.
Third, to anyone who ever wavers on the edge
While it is beautiful that Dom could receive this posthumous award as recognition for their consistent work to provide love and care for the UConn community, it is not enough. They would want this university to provide more love and care for the members of Husky Nation to prevent any more deaths. I know this because she stood with me on February 26th, 2020 when UCCO organized Mental Health Action Day and took over a Board of Trustees Meeting pleading for UConn to finally invest in the mental health resources we all need. Dom was there as we marched and students laid their souls bare after the back-to-back suicides of Justin Niezrecki and Tianyin Shang left our undergraduate community devastated. Dom was there for me every time I wavered on the edge. Dom was there for countless others, witnessing their pain as their therapist. Yes, Dom received this award, but she did not receive from this university what she gave. The time for that to change is now. UConn, I ask you to choose people over profits; to choose life.