by Kelly Nee | Managing Editor

SCRANTON – Former MLB player Willie Mays Aikens will be The University’s next Humanities in Action lecturer in an upcoming virtual panel.

Aikens is interested in speaking with the youth, specifically in higher education, about his life experiences with the Kansas City Royals, but more importantly as an African American man who was given an unjust prison sentence.

Greg Jordan, Executive Director of the Slattery Center for Humanities, has been friends with Aikens for over 15 years. The two were first connected by Willie’s former manager Ron Shapiro while Willie was incarcerated.

“Willie really brings a fresh dimension to the racial justice conversation,” Jordan said.

The focus of the panel is to discuss prison reform and the camaraderie that comes with being on a sports team, regardless of race, religion, or background.

Ryan Ems is one of the student assistants at The Slattery Center for Humanities, and he’s dedicated to bringing all student athletes together. Ems said there’s nothing that compares to the joy of playing on a sports team together and seeing your differences minimized right in front of you.

The virtual panel will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23. All students are encouraged to register and receive the webinar information at the following link:

Aikens was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the possession of over 50 grams of crack cocaine. Specifically, Willie hopes to speak about the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine and powdered cocaine and how this negatively impacts the African American community.

This is considered a mandatory minimum sentence, a hot topic in the conversation of prison reform today, and something that Aikens feels particularly passionate about changing.

“I like to share my story about what happened to me,” Aikens said. “You know, when you get to college, your life is just wide open and it’s all about making the right choices.”

Aikens was recently hired back by the Kansas City Royals, and will be filling a leadership position for the team.