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GRCC’s ODEI kicks off Diversity Lecture Series with the author of “The 1619 Project”

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(Photo Courtesy of GRCC)

By Elizabeth Halvorson

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a professor at Howard University, author of the “1619 Project” and an American investigative journalist for The New York Times began GRCC’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) first virtual Diversity Lecture of the winter semester on Monday, Jan. 31.

The lecture was hosted in a question and answer format with ODEI’s director B. Afeni McNeely Cobham and Equity fellow Leslie Neal posed questions for Hannah-Jones to answer regarding her work and her strive to continually “lift the lid off of history that has long been hid for and by white convenience.”

Throughout the lecture, Hannah-Jones highlighted many topics close to her including: Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist, activist, and researcher in the late 1800s to early 1900s, who served as a “spiritual guide” for Hannah-Jones in her steps of becoming a journalist herself, ”The 1619 Project” and the founding of the 1619 Freedom School, as well as her battle with the University of North Carolina over a tenured position after criticism for her views and work on the 1619 Project.

Concerning her book titled the “1619 Project” and how she pitched the idea, Hannan-Jones said, “The 1619 Project is a once in a career project. I didn’t write anything down. I didn’t have any great deal of detail. I had put myself in a position where I could pitch something big and they would say yes. How I did that is, the one thing I say to students all the time, the only thing you can control is yourself. You can’t control how people will see or respond to you, but you can control your own excellence.”

On the topic of the opening of the 1619 Freedom School, Hannah-Jones reflected on how she got to where she is and how she can help others do the same in their own lives. 

“For me to be successful and not try to reach back into my own community would feel like I actually failed in life,” Hannah-Jones said. “Being able to hopefully open doors for other children the way that doors were opened for me is the most important thing I can do right now.”

The 1619 Freedom School opened its doors this year and boasts “Liberation through Literacy” as its motto. The school is an after school program dedicated to bridging the academic gap for low-income students in Waterloo, Iowa.

“Literacy is the linchpin of all academic success,” said Hannah-Jones. “If you’re struggling to read, then you’ll struggle in all of your courses.”

To learn more about the 1619 Freedom School or donate, click here.

To purchase a copy of the “1619 Project”, click here.

The Diversity Lecture Series will continue on Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. with LaTosha Brown and her lecture on “Midterm Matters: Fostering the Emotional Stamina to stay engaged.” Click here to RSVP.

To see the list of upcoming Diversity Lecture speakers, click here.