MLK program features best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi

Closeup of Kendi.
Ibram X. Kendi, keynote speaker at the 32nd annual Martin Luther King Celebration, Thursday, Jan. 17. (Photo courtesy of American University)

By Todd Mordhorst, Office of the Provost

New York Times best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi will deliver the keynote address at the 32nd annual Martin Luther King Celebration on the Pullman campus next week, with the event livestreamed to other WSU locations.

Kendi, a  professor of history and founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, will speak 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, in the CUB Senior Ballroom.

Kendi was selected by the MLK Program organizing committee from among 26 nominees, and adds a unique viewpoint to the program.

“I think he (Kendi) will bring a unique perspective, an academic angle to the issue of diversity and equity,” says Ana Maria Rodriguez Vivaldi, a longtime committee member and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences. “I think he will have great insights for our faculty, but also for the entire community.”

The MLK Program at WSU has welcomed activists, artists and politicians in past years. Kendi brings an accomplished academic background. He has written and presented extensively on the history of racism in America. His book, “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and he’s provided commentary on numerous television and radio programs.

Kendi’s forthcoming book is tentatively titled, “How to be an Antiracist: A Memoir of My Journey.”

Kendi’s research and scholarship offer unique engagement opportunities for the community. “Because of Dr. Kendi’s background, our faculty in history are putting momentum behind the programming they may do with the event,” says Merrianneeta Nesbitt, diversity and inclusion specialist for the Diversity Education Program. “It is a great opportunity to synergize our programming with education on campus.”

More than 1,500 people attended last year’s MLK keynote address by writer and civil rights activist Shaun King, and Nesbitt says she hopes at least as many will hear Kendi’s message. She expects the CUB Senior Ballroom to fill, with overflow seating in the Junior Ballroom.

The MLK program does not end with Kendi’s keynote address. The Office of Equity and Diversity will honor WSU community members with MLK Distinguished Service Awards prior to the address. An interfaith church service will be held Jan. 20, and a Day of Service sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday on Jan. 21.

In addition, the Art for Social Change Contest is welcoming entries from students, faculty and staff through Jan. 11. Prizes will be awarded for artistic submissions in the areas of: Remembering MLK, Social Justice in Action, Community-Building at WSU, and Campus Civic Poet. The contest is sponsored by the Japanese Student Association, the School of Languages, Cultures, and Race, and the WSU MLK Program.

Full details regarding all of the events are available on the MLK Program website.

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