Black History Month 2020

February 15, 2020
Cartwright Hall

I want to begin by giving a special welcome and shout out to the Black Alumni Association, to the current members of Black United Students, and to the faculty, alumni and current students in Pan-African Studies. Thank you, and I mean this sincerely, for inviting me to speak at this important anniversary celebration.

You don’t have to be an historian to know, but I am an historian and do know, of the importance of 1970 in our institution’s history. Furthermore, I know, as do you … many of you from direct experience, that the events of May 4th, 1970, were proceeded by many other weighty, important, path breaking events on campus, many of which were experienced by, and even led by, people gathered here today. As such, I tip my hat to all of you for the roles you played in advancing equity and justice in Kent, at Kent State, and in northeastern Ohio.

Like all of you today, I look forward to hearing today about the creation of Black History Month, about Kent State students’ and professors’ founding roles in this creation, and to celebrating the past and the present. But a moment ago I mentioned the word “equity,” and thus I will finish with the following comments on pursuing equity at Kent State.

Because words and their meanings matter, let me say here that by “equity” I am talking about fairness, and about providing the conditions so that all can be successful.

Last fall, the President’s Cabinet and five campus leaders, including Pan-African Studies Chair Amoaba Gooden, and Faculty Senate President Pam Grimm, participated in the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Institute in an effort to increase our capacity to identify and address issues related to race and equity.

A key part of this process now becomes the gathering of input from a broader range of constituents, so that we can ultimately develop an equity statement for Kent State University that reflects the values we hold, and the aspirations we have.

These broad conversations will no doubt include difficult discussions that challenge the thinking of many of our community members. But these difficult conversations are part of the process of identifying a shared understanding of the factors that act as barriers to equity, and that violate agreed upon commitments to fairness.

I look forward to continuing this journey toward equity and fairness with you. I honor all those whose shoulders we stand upon today as we conduct our work. And most importantly for today, I look forward to celebrating the founding of Black History Month in this special anniversary year.

Thank you.