Ibram X. Kendi to speak at MLK Day

Author of ‘How To Be an Antiracist’ keynotes Exeter’s celebration of the slain civil rights leader.

Nicole Pellaton
January 15, 2020
Ibram X. Kendi

Ibram X. Kendi, author of groundbreaking books on racism and founding director of The Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University, will kick off Exeter’s 30th annual celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 17. Widely praised for energizing and refocusing conversations around racism and how to dismantle it, Kendi will speak to a packed audience of students, faculty and staff in Love Gym.

“Kendi is today’s visionary in the enduring struggle for racial justice,” writes Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility,” in describing the impact of “How To Be an Antiracist.” “In this personal and revelatory new work, he yet again holds up a transformative lens, challenging both mainstream and antiracist orthodoxy. He illuminates the foundations of racism in revolutionary new ways, and I am consistently challenged and inspired by his analysis.”

“How To Be an Antiracist”

Kendi’s most recent book weaves together his personal story with observations on racism, its roots, history and drivers. A historian, Kendi outlines the attitudes and events that have created today’s racism and through compelling arguments, that often pull on his personal narratives, makes the case that there is no such thing as neutrality.

“The history of the racialized world is a three-way fight between assimilationists, segregationists, and antiracists,” Kendi writes. “Antiracist ideas are based in the truth that racial groups are equals in all the ways they are different, assimilationist ideas are rooted in the notion that certain racial groups are culturally or behaviorally inferior, and segregationist ideas spring from a belief in genetic racial distinction and fixed hierarchy.” The author urges us all to combat, or dismantle, racism every day. “The good news,” he writes, “is that racist and antiracist are not fixed identities. We can be a racist one minute and an antiracist the next. What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment, determines what – not who – we are.”

Awards and Publications

In 2019, The Root magazine listed Kendi as the 15th most influential African American between the ages of 25 and 45. Kendi was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in the same year. He received the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2016 for “Stamped From the Beginning,” the youngest author ever to accept the award.

Kendi is widely published in magazines and newspapers, including The Journal of African American History, Journal of Social History, Journal of Black Studies, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Time, and Black Perspectives. He has also appeared on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Al-Jazeera, PBS and the BBC.

A Day of Workshops

After the keynote, Exeter students and faculty will spend the day attending workshops on topics of diversity, equity and inclusion. Workshops include:

  • Janine Fondon, author and educator: “Women in pursuit of resilience, resistance and persistence”
  • Audrey Peterman, environmental consultant: “I have been to the mountaintop”
  • Kadeine Peterson, science instructor at Exeter: “Coming to terms with the scientific field’s role in the justification of slavery”
  • Paul Tran, poet: “Writing freedom, writing joy”
  • Michael Twitty, food writer and culinary historian, and Chef Kurt Evans, founder of End Mass Incarceration Dinners and co-founder of Cooks for the Culture: “Food and liberation”