address emphasizes openness as a necessity in creating societal
Junior John Click talks to author and activist
Rebecca Walker after her Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech.
In her talk, entitled "Today Is the Tomorrow You Were
Promised Yesterday," she asked her audience to remember
King's accomplishments, but also continue to work towards
an open society.
and author Rebecca Walker addressed Goddard Auditorium on
Monday, Jan. 15 as the keynote speaker for the college's
Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration.
opened her speech with a call to acknowledge not only King's
achievements in the Civil Rights Movement, but also to remember
his challenge to create a kinder and more open society.
She went on to state that only with this spirit can we fully
celebrate King's legacy. "To truly appreciate Martin
Luther King, Jr. we must have the openness to create our
own dreams, not just his," she said.
and divisiveness were central themes in Walker's speech
and in the question and answer session. To place these ideas
in a modern context, she emphasized a phrase throughout
the speech that she described as her understanding of humanity's
contemporary crisis: "The chaotic forces of today are
disguised as forward momentum and are tinged with the potential
for comprehensive annihilation."
the need for societal change, she articulated her belief
that openness is humanity's "most valuable resource."
Walker's stress on openness was crucial to her calls for
self-transformation as a precondition to societal transformation.
Drawing on examples from her life as an activist, Walker
explained the dangers of certitude, stating that in her
younger years she "never challenged the presumption
that [her] very rightness could be divisive." She identified
society's obsession with individualism as the "birthplace
of divisiveness" and politics as the "cauldron
in which it is often brewed."
also touched on her personal feelings regarding race. She
is of both African-American and Jewish descent and repeated
her calls for openness in difficult discussions of race
relations. To explain what she meant by openness in such
a situation, Walker referred to a televised conversation
between herself and Malik Zulu Shabazz, who delivered a
lecture on campus last March. She listened to Shabazz's
opinions, which were at odds with her own, and chose in
her response to identify with his pain and anger at injustice
rather than to simply contradict him.
also reflected on her own life, including her involvement
with the Third Wave Foundation, a non-profit organization
that provides funds and support for young women in leadership
roles. In a 1992 article in Ms. magazine, Walker coined
the phrase "Third Wave feminist." She has been
an active member of the third wave movement, which has been
credited with building a more racially inclusive feminism.
In addition, Walker has received awards from many prominent
activist organizations and has authored several books on
gender and racial identity.
to Walker's speech were overwhelmingly positive. Sophomore
Leslie Ann James appreciated Walker's speaking ability and
said that she "touched on race in a way that was meaningful
to everyone." Adeyemi Doss, senior, also praised Walker's
message and agreed that openness in discussion is important
to movements of self-empowerment.
Mayer, a sophomore, described the speech as "soul-rejuvenating,"
adding that Walker's worldview offered a much-needed alternative
to dominant right-left political arguments.
seemed to agree that Walker appropriately honored the legacy
of Martin Luther King, Jr. They also suggested that Walker's
speech evoked a certain thoughtfulness that she hinted at
in her examination of self-transformation. Senior Jason
Shenk commented on both the depth and consequences of Walker's
thoughts, adding that "she's really on to something
with the concept of skillful openness."
is the daughter of Alice Walker, a civil rights activist
and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The
Color Purple." Rebecca Walker will release "Baby
Love," a memoir on motherhood, in March. More information
on Rebecca Walker's life, books, activism, and public appearances
can be found at http://www.rebeccawalker.com.