Civil rights activist and author Myrlie Evers-Williams PO ’68 spoke at the Scripps College Garrison Theater Nov. 7. Part of the Roxanne Wilson Leader-in-Residence program, the talk was entitled “Fighting for Equality: The Interconnected Struggle.”
Among the topics Evers-Williams discussed were her personal memories and experiences as a civil rights activist for African-Americans and women. Evers-Williams also spoke about the positive changes that have occurred in the United States since she was an activist 50 years ago.
“She [Evers-Williams] is probably the best and most important living civil rights activist,” Scripps American studies professor Matt Delmont said. “There are very few people currently who can talk with such emotional investment … and I think it’s important to hear her reminisce and talk about things [that we] only know through research. It’s important for students to hear why history is important and why she is important.”
In addition to noting the positive impacts of the civil rights movement, Evers-Williams touched on topics such as President Barack Obama’s health care reform, gridlock in Congress, the Trayvon Martin case, and the growing influence of African-Americans in the entertainment industry.
“It was interesting how she was able to connect so many different major events that have been going on to the principles of civil rights,” Kimberly Felt SC ’17 said. “She really passed along a message that you should stand up for what you believe in no matter what.”
Evers-Williams began the talk by outlining her four tools for building an inclusive community: stewardship, inclusiveness, concern for disadvantages, and renewed commitment to nonviolence.
“I want students to learn more about civil rights beyond the more iconic figures … and use this as a way to question why history might still matter now,” Delmont said.
He added that lessons from civil rights activism can be applied to issues such as same-sex marriage and treatment of undocumented workers.
Present among the members of the Scripps community were members of the Pomona Valley Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Sorority, who presented Evers-Williams with flowers at the end of the address.
“She is the epitome of resilience,” Saloni Kalkat SC ’17 said, adding that she learned that “it’s our responsibility to recognize things that are wrong and change them, no matter how big or small.”
Evers-Williams is the current Roxanne Wilson Leader-in-Residence at Scripps. The wife of murdered civil rights activist and Mississippi Field Secretary Medgar Evers, Evers-Williams has authored two books, For Us, The Living and Watch Me Fly: What I Learned on the Way to Becoming the Woman I Was Meant to Be. She is a recipient of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Spingarn Medal and the National Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn. The first African-American woman to serve as the Commissioner on the Board of Public Works for the city of Los Angeles, Evers-Williams also served as chairwoman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998.
In addition, Evers-Williams delivered the invocation at Obama’s second ceremonial inauguration in January 2013. She was named “Woman of the Year” by Ms. Magazine and was included on Ebony magazine’s list of “100 Most Fascinating Black Women of the 20th Century.”