By Collin Atwood
It is no secret that racism exists in the country, states, and more specifically, right here on Alden Street. Whether individuals have experienced it or not, there is no denying the simple fact that change must be made.
It is also undeniable that the Springfield College community has been giving extraordinary efforts towards the fight for racial justice and equality. SEAT at the table, ‘My Story, My Truth’, and most recently, the March for Action on Alden are all events that have been organized by various diversity groups at Springfield College to bring awareness to this topic.
Additionally, in late September there was a list of six demands created by four diversity groups at Springfield College: Men of Excellence, Women of Power, Student Society for Bridging Diversity, and Black Student Union. These demands were either met or legitimate steps to satisfy them were made.
Now, Springfield College has made another move towards the fight for social justice. On March 25, 2021, Ibram X. Kendi will be speaking at the annual Arts and Humanities Speaker Series.
“For someone of his footprint and magnitude to be coming to our tiny campus, I think that speaks volumes about the commitment we’re making towards this initiative,” said James O’Brien, the Interim Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
Kendi is a #1 New York Times bestselling author for three separate books. His most recent book is called “Be Antiracist: A Journal for Awareness, Reflection, and Action.” His books have been decorated with all sorts of awards. “The Black Campus Movement” won the W.E.B. Du Bois Book Prize and “Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas In America” won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.
Kendi is also the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities Department at Boston University, along with the Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. The list of accolades for Kendi goes on and on.
Having Kendi on campus has been in the works since May of 2020 and he easily topped the list of candidates for the speaker series. “The Arts and Humanities lecture is typically someone of notoriety, based in the fields in the arts or in humanities,” O’Brien said.
Time magazine named Kendi one of the top 100 most influential people of 2020 for the impact he has made on the world regarding social justice.
The campus community is only going to benefit from hearing Kendi speak in March. “It is a chance for the college community to engage with the ideas of one of the most important researchers and thinkers on these topics in the nation,” said Ian Delahanty, Assistant Professor of History at Springfield College.
The hope is Kendi can impact the students and faculty and Springfield College just like he has the rest of the world. “I hope this represents an ongoing commitment to have our college community self-reflect on the racial climate on our campus, which has not been welcoming to students of color,” Alice Eaton said.
Eaton is a professor at Springfield College who teaches multiple literature courses, one being African-American literature. She is also a contributor to the African-American National Biography project at Harvard University.
Part of the message that Kendi is trying to get across to people is that saying, “I’m not racist” is not an option anymore. On a TED Talk done in May, Kendi said, “What I’m trying to do with my work is to really get Americans to eliminate the concept of ‘not racist’ from their vocabulary, and realize we’re either being racist or anti-racist.”
That is what his book, “How to Be an Antiracist”, is all about. In the book, Kendi talks about the systemic changes that need to be made. In the first chapter of the book, he starts off by defining “racist” and “antiracist.”
When talking about human development, Stephanie Logan, Assistant Professor and Chair of the Department of Education said, “We do not have 18-25 years to reach full maturity when there is physical, mental, emotional, implicit, and explicit violence enacted upon students and employees of color by the institution.”
Bringing Kendi to speak on campus isn’t going to change things overnight. It’s about what happens after the fact that really matters.
“After that self-reflection, concrete actions as suggested by student groups such as Men of Excellence, Women of Power, Student Society for Bridging Diversity, and the Black Student Union, to improve the campus climate need to be taken,” Eaton said.
Although much more needs to be done to get the campus climate where it needs to be in terms of racial equality, having Kendi share his knowledge with Springfield College is a step in the right direction.
“Dr. Kendi’s lecture will probably provide nourishment for the stage the College is at and I hope the information is enough fuel to push the College to the next stage of development,” Logan said.
Photo: The New York Times