Boykin seeks to open listners’ eyes to diversity

Boykin seeks to open listners eyes to diversity

by Cory Pfister

An accomplished writer, poet, and speaker visited campus last Thursday to make the Simpson community more aware of issues faced by minority groups in society today.

Keith Boykin, who also served as minority advisor during the Clinton administration, came to campus as part of the Poets and Writers lectureship series.

Dan Bauer, assistant professor of English, said he seeks to bring a broad spectrum of speakers to campus for the series, and that Boykin’s political affiliation offers him a different perspective.

Through stories of his childhood, Boykin was able to hit a personal note with his audience members, no matter their race or sexual preference.

Bauer said this is part of Boykin’s goal as a speaker.

“He doesn’t necessarily pretend to speak for anyone. Yet, if he doesn’t speak, there is a lot that doesn’t get said,” Bauer said.

Bauer said that Boykin believes that there is not one single perspective for any one group of people, which is why he tries to only speak for himself.

“While he is black and gay, he really doesn’t speak only for those groups,” Bauer said. “His message resonated with everyone who hears him speak.”

In addition to giving the audience an insight into his early years, Boykin shared some of his experiences and award-winning work from more recent years, including “Respecting the Soul: Daily Reflections for Black Lesbians and Gays” and “One More River to Cross: Black & Gay in America”.

Sophomore Rhonda Butler said she was moved by Boykin’s message.

“I was completely blown away by his speeches and it left me wanting more time to learn more about his life,” Butler said.

Boykin also spoke about his participation in a landmark discrimination case against his alma mater, Harvard University. He was one of the 11 named plaintiffs in this lawsuit and he personally argued a portion of the case in the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

A dinner prior to the speech gave select students, faculty and staff members the unique opportunity to speak with the nationally recognized author. Butler attended the dinner as part of her affiliation with the campus chapter of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Question Awareness.

Butler said this experience gave her the opportunity to connect more with the speaker.

“It showed that someone who seems unreachable has the same fears and apprehensions as college students do,” Butler said.

Boykin received degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard. He was a general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and a spokesperson for the Harvard Coalition for Civil Rights.

His work today continues to show his concern for diversity issues.