Third MLK

Third Annual MLK Jr. Speaker

The third annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Speaker in Social Justice featured guest speaker Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., award-winning author of How to be an Antiracist, on Jan. 27.

The event was presented by the Monmouth University President’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, joined by Hettie V. Williams, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in African American History, and featured opening remarks from President Patrick Leahy and Walter Greason Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair of Educational Leadership.

Kendi’s dialogue addressed the topic of social justice not only on an individual scale, but also regarding American institutions and universities. “What’s important to keep in mind that in order for us to create and build and maintain ant-racist institutions, we have to actively do so,” Kendi began.

He continued, “We can’t just sit back and think it’s going to happen because the norm is racist institutions. We have to unpack and challenge that history and that normality through examining the policies and the practices that govern the institution…To admit our racist policies as institutions is to be anti-racist.”

The anti-racist activist also outlined what a transformational, restorative justice system would look like in America. He said, “First and foremost, that justice system would be as focused on fighting social problems as it is on punishing individuals…If people are engaging in petty theft out of poverty as it usually happens, then what we need to do as a justice system is eliminate poverty. Because that is going to make the community safer.”

Kendi is a three-time #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and was named one of Time Magazine’s top 100 influential people in the world in 2020. His other books include Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, and Antiracist Baby. He is also the Director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University.

“The Council felt Dr. Kendi’s internationally acclaimed scholarship provided an important set of tools for critical reflection and action as it relates to antiracism, and that having him speak to our campus would allow for deeper exploration of his work as a means to strengthen our individual and collective actions,” said Zaneta Rago-Craft Ph.D., Director of the Intercultural Center and Advisor to the President on Diversity and Inclusion in a statement to The Outlook.

She continued, “While issues of racial violence have a long-standing history, the tragedies that took place over the summer have inspired a renewed sense of urgency and commitment to tackling systemic and interpersonal racism in our country, and relatedly, our own communities.”

“Monmouth University has come a long way in matters of diversity, and we still have a long way to go,” Williams said during her dialogue with Kendi.

According to Rago-Craft, The President’s Advisory Council was established in 2016 and consists of 25 faculty, staff, and students who have taken a lead role in advancing the University’s efforts for a diverse and inclusive campus.