Author and assistant professor at Princeton University Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor spoke about black politics, social movements and racial inequality at the Performing Arts Center on Feb. 21 to conclude the Inclusion Starts With Me Teach In series, which focused on diversity and inclusion.
Taylor is the author of “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.” According to Associate Dean for Diversity and Curriculum Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti, the Political Science Department recommended Taylor to be the event’s signature speaker because of her reputation as a renowned public speaker and the topics her works explore.
“We always try to pick someone who is both renowned in their field and also someone who is current and talking about important things,” Teramoto Pedrotti said. “We make sure that we have different perspectives that the students can relate to and she seemed to fit all of those different categories.”
Prior to Taylor’s appearance at Cal Poly, students and faculty engaged in a book circle to get familiar with her work before the presentation.
During her speech, Taylor talked about the current political climate and its effects regarding racial, social and economic inequalities. Taylor said that while having people in politics who represent what we want and need is crucial, social movements are also a key factor in making a change in society.
“Movements not only create the possibility of changing our material conditions by exerting the force of many upon the intransitives of the few, but social movements create arenas were we ourselves can be transformed,” Taylor said. “The mass movement breaks us from the isolation of everyday life.”
Journalism freshman Kiersten Stevens said the presentation really held her attention and that she found the issues discussed relatable.
“Taylor was really inspiring and grasped the attention of [the] audience really well,” Stevens said. “My favorite part was when she talked about how the country is run by people that have money and have never faced the problems that most Americans face.”
In regards to Cal Poly’s climate, Taylor said students need to talk about politics and ideas together in order to figure out what is going on in the world.
“Activists don’t come from activist heaven,” Taylor said. “Activists are made and created through not just struggle but connection and reading and understanding.”
Teramoto Pedrotti said her biggest takeaway from the speech was when Taylor talked about not limiting your possibilities.
“I think one of my favorite things about working on a university campus is that students are very idealistic, which is a wonderful thing, and I think for me it helps me to not put limits on what I think can be done,” Teramoto Pedrotti said. “I think that’s partly what Dr. Taylor was saying last night — to not limit yourself by what you think can be done before you try something, or before you ask for something, or before you demand something, and I thought that was very powerful.”
Teramoto Pedrotti said she was heartened by the turnout from both faculty and students and their participation in Taylor’s presentation.
“I think that really kind of reflects the interest students have in hearing different perspectives and also our continued value for diversity and inclusion on this campus,” Teramoto Pedrotti said.
Taylor concluded her speech by saying that we cannot create a change in this world unless we work together to create a change.
“Once you have caught a glimpse of freedom or tasted a bit of self-determination you can’t go back to the old ways established under a racist, capitalist regime,” Taylor said. “Another world is possible, but we are the only ones who can create it. No one is coming to save us — we must join together to save ourselves.”