The daughter of the renowned civil rights activist, Whitney M. Young Jr., Dr. Marcia Young Cantarella gave a moving speech on Thursday, February 23, in Bradford Auditorium as part of the Living Legends Convocation Series at Kentucky State University (KSU).

Young graduated from Kentucky State College in 1941. During his college years, he met Margaret Buckner, who was later to become his wife. As Dr. Cantarella’s father was making a name for himself fighting employment discrimination and transforming the National Urban League into an energetic social-civil rights organization, Dr. Cantarella grew up as a normal child should.

“It’s like being anyone’s daughter. My dad was my dad,” she said.

It wasn’t until her teenage years that she realized and began to understand and appreciate the work her father was doing for African-Americans. Because of her family background and her efforts to uphold their legacy of being engaged, she was exposed to greater opportunities such as meeting President Lyndon Baines Johnson and working as an intern for Bobby Kennedy.

Visiting KSU’s campus brought back memories for Dr. Cantarella. She loves to meet with students, and the campus makes her think back to when her parents attended the Frankfort, Kentucky, institution.  Although the campus has newer buildings, Dr. Cantarella still remembers what the University was like years ago.

At convocation, Dr. Cantarella gave a speech based on the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” She encourages to students to speak up and be engaged in their classes. Cantarella believes that college is a “dress rehearsal for life.”

“There’s a lot going on in the world that needs the voices and creativity of the younger generation,” she said.

During her years at Bryn Mawr College, she participated in marches and exercised her voice. In 1964, she along with other classmates launched a women’s movement on her campus. By the time she graduated, her campus had a completely different environment for women, and stereotypes for women were broken. She believes it’s time for younger people to step up and use their voices the way her generation did when they were young.

Dr. Cantarella has been working on the interactive Student Handbook and Facilitators Guide for the PBS documentary, “All the Difference.” The film tells the story of two young men from Chicago as they leave high school and transition to college. It follows them on their path through college and shows all the challenges they experience. The guide allows students, and those who work with them, to learn from the young men’s tough experiences featured in the film.

— Shantel Booth