Pelton pushes for diversity at MLK luncheon

by Victoria Bedford / Beacon Staff • January 19, 2012

Pelton megan
President M. Lee Pelton spoke about the importance of civic engagement during a speech as part of Emerson's First Lecture series Monday night in the Bright Family Screening Room.
President M. Lee Pelton spoke about the importance of civic engagement during a speech as part of Emerson's First Lecture series Monday night in the Bright Family Screening Room.
President M. Lee Pelton emphasized the college’s commitment to creating a diverse academic campus during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon Wednesday.

Pelton, who is the college’s first black president, began his speech at the event by quoting Dr. King and later speculated what it would be like if Dr. King—assassinated in 1968—were alive today, asking “what would be the breadth and magnitude of his influence?”

“There is this notion, after Obama's election, that we live in a post-racial society,” Pelton said. “I disagree. Nevertheless, we have an opportunity in the 21st century for a more inclusive world view.”

More than 100 people gathered at the Bill Bordy theater Wednesday to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at the annual event organized by Emerson's Black Organization with Natural Interests (EBONI). The theme of the event was “The Struggle Is Worth It,” encouraging and celebrating diversity in the Emerson community approaching Black History Month.

Students and faculty of different races, genders, and ages gathered for lunch and to hear Pelton and assistant professor of performing arts Christina Marin speak.

Marin, who is Latina, told a personal story of a time ten years ago when she was ostracized because of her race, and was poorly treated and ignored at a bar in Illinois. She said the event opened her eyes and she wanted to create a change.

“I wanted to be part of a legacy that from our darkest days could shed light and bring hope,” she said.

Pelton and Marin discussed the future of diversity at Emerson. EBONI president Chris Hyacinthe said he has a positive outlook for racial and cultural diversity at the college.

“It's getting there,” said the senior marketing communication major. “It's not where you'd like it to be, but that's something that takes time.”

The three-year EBONI member explained that diversity can be found in a number of factors, including gender, religion and sexual identity.

“I think people typically define diversity as skin color, and it's more than that,” he said.

Pelton described diversity as an integral part of education.

“Diversity, in all of its dimensions, is the core feature of academic excellence,” Pelton said in an interview. “It is impossible for us as a community to aspire for academic excellence without aspiring for diversity.”