Kenyon’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy on Monday, Jan. 20, featured a keynote address by Loretta Ross, a nationally recognized women’s rights and human rights leader.
Ross’s work emphasizes the intersectionality of social justice issues and how this transforms social change. Ross’ address at Kenyon was titled “Calling In Vs. Calling Out Will Build the Human Rights Movement.” In it, she discussed “calling out” and “cancel culture,” or the public shaming of those with insensitive or unpopular opinions, and suggested productive ways to engage in social justice work, such as “calling in” and fostering dialogue — a topic she also addressed in an August 2019 New York Times op-ed.
“Let’s turn to each other, not on each other,” Ross said, quoting civil rights leader Joseph Lowery. “[Civil rights leaders] didn’t all agree with each other, but what they agreed to do was work together to defeat white supremacy.”
“Loretta Ross is one of the important voices asking us what comes next, after calling someone or something out,” said Professor of English Ted Mason, associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion and senior advisor to the president. “In the spirit of a day on which we especially remember Dr. King’s legacy, she reminds us that forging community should be our goal, something better achieved by calling in.”
Ross was a co-founder and the national coordinator, from 2005 to 2012, of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a network of women of color and allied organizations that organize women in the reproductive justice movement. She has written and spoken extensively on the history of African American women and reproductive justice activism. Ross is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and holds honorary doctorates from Arcadia University and Smith College. She is pursuing a doctorate in women’s studies at Emory University.
In addition to Ross’ keynote address, Kenyon’s “Day of Dialogue” program also included performances by Kenyon’s Chamber Singers, who opened and closed the ceremony with two pieces under the direction of Professor of Music Benjamin Locke, and remarks by Kenyon President Sean Decatur.
“The Martin Luther King holiday has always held an important place in my heart,” Decatur said. “As a member of the generation that followed behind the civil rights leaders of the 1960s, I have benefitted a great deal from the courage, determination and passion that not only Dr. King but thousands of ordinary people showed as they demonstrated for freedom.”
Two breakout sessions after the keynote address provided participants with the opportunity to further engage with Ross and to discuss topics including solidarity in social justice movements and allyship and its challenges, moderated by Mason, Associate Professor of Political Science H. Abbie Erler and Professor of Sociology Jan Thomas, senior advisor for community relations; and the necessity of human charity, moderated by chaplains Rachel Kessler ’04 and Marc Bragin.