NESCACs explore diversity issues

Schools across the NESCAC hosted lectures and participated in discussions about race, inclusion, and diversity this past week as part of Black History Month.

On Monday, February 8, according to the Spectator, Hamilton College welcomed award-winning author Claudia Rankine to speak about her 2014 book Citizen: An American Lyric. Rankine’s book is a powerful compilation of poetry, prose, and images that address issues of racism in America. Her lecture included readings from her book as well as videos and personal stories that collectively provided insight into the injustices that people of color experience on a daily basis in America.

Rankine addressed the tendency of college students to be complacent with their surroundings and urged the audience to be more willing to “make our spaces uncomfortable” and discuss difficult topics. One [Hamilton] student in attendance, Eva Lynch-Comer ’19, remarked that the talk was “very powerful” and “an emotional and personal experience.”

A similar discussion took place at Connecticut College last Wednesday, according to the Voice. Freshman Jermaine Doris ’19 and Africana Studies Professor Nathalie Etoke organized an event called “Black Rage: Defined and Refined.” Doris and Professor Etoke wished to create a relaxed environment in order to prompt open conversation about a topic that people often find uncomfortable. Participants were encouraged to share their thoughts on issues of race, emotion, and progress.

The event was designed to be a dialogue between the attendees rather than a typical one-sided lecture. Professor Etoke noted to the Voice, “The matter we’re discussing is anything but proper,” and  emphasized the importance of actively addressing the racial issues on college campuses. An estimated 35 students participated in the novel event’s round-table conversations.

Nine departments and groups at Tufts University collectively sponsored the annual Africana Distinguished Lecture, held last Thursday at Breed Memorial Hall. Kendra Field, Interim Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts, described the lecture’s purpose as “building historical memory and institutional memory as well.” This year’s featured lecturer was M.I.T. history professor Craig Steven Wilder, who primarily discussed his book Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities, according to the Tufts Daily.

Wilder’s book, and his lecture, focused on the rarely-discussed historical relationship between American universities and racism and slavery. “From the very beginning of the American college [system], the relationship between colleges, conquest, and slavery is set,” Wilder said. He concluded his talk by challenging students and faculty at Tufts, and universities across the country, “to have an open, honest dialogue about its history.”

On Thursday February 18, Professor of Law at Florida International University Stanley Eugene Fish will speak at the annual Hugo L. Black lecture on freedom of expression at Wesleyan University. Much of Fish’s work attempts to create a more defined separation between what constitutes free speech and what constitutes hate speech. His lecture is titled “Micro-Aggressions, Trigger Warnings, Cultural ‘Appropriations’ and History: What’s Happening on Campus.” According to the Argus, this 25th anniversary of the lecture series will take place at 8 P.M. in the Memorial Chapel on Wesleyan’s campus.