Section: News

Dr. Loretta Ross delivers MLK Day keynote lecture

Dr. Loretta Ross delivers MLK Day keynote lecture

President Decatur introduces human rights activist Loretta Ross. | REID STAUTBERG

On Monday, Jan. 20, Kenyon celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a Day of Dialogue. The event aimed to encourage practical approaches to addressing racism and prejudice. Classes operated on a modified schedule to allow students and faculty to attend the event in Rosse Hall.

Following an opening performance by the Kenyon Chamber Singers, President Sean Decatur welcomed the auditorium full of students and staff to the Day of Dialogue and introduced the keynote speaker, human rights activist Dr. Loretta Ross.

Ross, who currently teaches at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, has worked as an activist for more than 50 years. Though her work has focused primarily on women’s and reproductive rights, Ross is a strong advocate for a fully inclusive and unified human rights movement. In her speech, titled “Calling In vs. Calling Out Will Build the Human Rights Movement,” Ross presented a vision of a universal fight against injustice. Ross stressed the importance of intersectional activism and finding common ground between dissenting parties.

Lara O’Callaghan ’23 found Ross’s personal account of her efforts to work with her conservative parents, despite their generational and political differences, compelling. “I really liked her idea of … finding common ground with people who don’t share your beliefs,” she said. “Even if they’re in an older generation or younger generation.”

In her address, Ross explained the difference between “calling out” and “calling in,” a concept that is the basis for a book she’s in the process of writing. Ross described “calling out” and “calling in” as two ways of holding people accountable for problematic behavior with dramatically different intentions and results.

“A ‘call-out’ is publicly shaming somebody for what they do, think, or are,” Ross said in her speech. “A ‘calling-in’ is offering feedback or correction for the same things to achieve accountability—but you do so privately without embarrassing or shaming the person.”

On the morning of the Day of Dialogue, Kenyon co-sponsored the 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast alongside Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) and the MLK Legacy Committee. Jonathan Tazewell ’84, Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama, spoke at the breakfast, which was hosted on MVNU’s campus from 9-11 a.m. The on-campus Day of Dialogue event, sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, ran from 3-7 p.m.

After Ross’ address and a closing performance by the Chamber Singers, students and faculty were invited to attend either of the two breakout sessions meant to further the discussion of Ross’ talk. One group, moderated by Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ted Mason, Associate Professor of Political Science H. Abbie Erler and Senior Advisor for Community Relations Jan Thomas, focused on intersectional allyship and solidarity between social justice movements. The second group, moderated by Chaplains Marc Bragin and Rachel Kessler ’04, focused on human charity’s relationship with the human rights movement. In their session, Bragin and Kessler held a discussion on how addressing problematic behavior is, as Ross described, not an insult, but rather “an expression of radical love.”

“In a small community such as Kenyon, we should look out for each other,” Bragin said. “We should call out and call in when we think it’s going to make the person a better person and make this community a better community.”


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