BREMERTON — Olympic College wants to initiate a community-wide conversation around issues of equity in Kitsap.
Who better, perhaps, to jumpstart that conversation than Dr. Angela Davis — a human rights activist at home and abroad since the 1960s, a retired feminist-studies professor, and two-time candidate for vice president of the United States?
Davis spoke on equity in education Jan. 11 in the Bremerton High School Performing Arts Center, the first in a series of Presidential Equity and Excellence lectures planned by OC. While the retired academic scholar’s presentation was made on the Bremerton Patriot’s deadline — look for updated coverage in the Jan. 20 print edition — it was clear she helped bolster the series’ effort to “strengthen our capacity to have civil and reasoned and constructive dialogue about these important issues,” said Cheryl Nunez, OC’s vice president of equity and inclusion.
The event, according to Nuñez, is “part of the brand new series that the college has introduced that is really meant to center some community-wide conversations around issues of equity in our community.”
Nuñez’s office leads the college’s strategic diversity plan, with priorities like curricular and co-curricular opportunities, diverse hiring practices, ensuring the safety of OC campuses, and other goals centered around fostering a diverse and equitable environment.
“(The series is) consistent with our understanding that the college alone can’t really properly ensure equity for those we serve,” Nuñez said, “but rather that we really need to partner with the community and ensure that in all facets of our social lives here in this community, we have access to the resources that we need.”
Davis’s presentation was titled “Building Community: The Case for Educational Equity.”
“Angela Davis is a scholar … but (is) probably most notable as an activist who has spent her entire career in educating students, and also leading movements around topics of racial and class-based and gender equity,” Nuñez said.
The lecture was originally scheduled to take place in the Bremerton High School commons, but there was such a positive response — with about 350 registering for the event by afternoon Jan. 9 — that the lecture had to be moved to the performing arts center.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Nuñez said. “It’s the first time we’ve done this series. The performing arts center was in use that day (but) they were gracious enough when we began seeing an overwhelmingly positive response to make arrangements to free up the center. We’re so grateful.”
The second lecture in the series is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 28; contracts and scheduling are being finalized, Nuñez said.
“Educational equity is so critical to any measures of effectiveness that we might tout (at OC),” she said. “It is consistent with the recent convening of a collective impact project that we are calling ‘Graduate Kitsap and Mason.’
“Through that initiative, we are trying to partner with stakeholders across the community to ensure that the elements of all life outcomes are connected with educational success: homelessness, hunger, good medical care and good early-childhood education. That across one’s lifespan in this community, all of these resources are properly aligned to ensure that we can develop a culture of college-going for our young adults.”
After Davis’s lecture, audience members engaged in a meet-and-greet session to discuss the topic with her and get books signed. Olympic College’s bookstore sold copies of Davis’s books, focused on equity, at the site.
“There will be people on many sides of this issue who disagree,” Nuñez said of the importance of educational equity, “but strengthening our capacity to have civil and reasoned and constructive dialogues about these important issues will help ensure that we as a community can support much better outcomes of educational attainment and achievement for our students.”
Michelle Beahm is a reporter for the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.