As part of an ongoing annual initiative to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy, the College is bringing former head of the NAACP Benjamin Jealous to campus to deliver the Common Hour lecture today. Jealous will give a talk entitled “That One Big Thing,” in which he will discuss the activist tradition and how Bowdoin students can get involved.
Jealous was the youngest head of the NAACP in the organization’s history. According to an email sent to the student body by President Barry Mills, he “has been a leader of successful state and local movements to ban the death penalty, outlaw racial profiling, defend voting rights, secure marriage equality, and free multiple wrongfully incarcerated people.”
A committee of faculty, staff and students made the decision to bring Jealous to campus. The same committee invited spoken-word group climbing PoeTree to perform on campus last month, on MLK day.
According to Associate Dean of Multicultural Student Programs Leana Amaez, Bowdoin wanted to hold an event that was “somewhat celebratory but thought-provoking” on MLK Day, followed by a keynote address later in the semester.
She characterized the programming as “an opportunity for students to engage not just around King, but around what King stood for.”
The faculty and staff members involved in bringing Jealous to campus said they hoped that his visit would inspire students to get involved in larger issues.
“Students are not really thinking of themselves as social change agents,” said Special Assistant to the President for Multicultural Affairs H. Roy Partridge, who was involved in bringing Jealous to campus and will give the introduction to his speech.
He added that he hoped Jealous’ visit would “help students become more aware of what they can contribute to these changes.”
Professor of Africana Studies Judith Casselberry, who was also involved in the selection committee, expressed similar sentiments.
“I always hope that we can continue to see the relevance of not resting on our successes, but continuing to push for what MLK called the ‘beloved community,’” she said.
Amaez added that although some students might view the NAACP as a purely historical organization, it remains an important agent of social change. She said she hoped that Jealous’ visit would remind the community of this.
Casselberry, who was involved in coordinating the Climbing PoeTree event, also emphasized that both events featured relatively young activists working for social justice.
“It’s not just an older generation of people who are remembering; it’s not an archival kind of project,” she said.
Benjamin Jealous will speak in Pickard Theater Friday at 12:30 p.m.