UVU Honors Black Women at Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration


Speakers urged Utah Valley University students and staff to remember the past but be willing to challenge the future during activities surrounding a commemoriation of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 at the Orem Campus.

The keynote address was delivered by Menah Pratt-Clarke, currently the vice president for Strategic Affiairs and Diversity and professor of education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (more commonly known as Virginia Tech).

“We must remember that we rode on the backs of those who came before us, and we have the responsibility to be the backs of those who come after us,” Pratt-Clarke said to attendees in the Ragan Theater. “I charge each of you to be a back for one another.”

Pratt-Clarke used stories about her mother, who grew up in segregated Texas and was the daughter of slaves, as an example of “challenging the status quo and cultural norms.”

“Are we willing to disrupt the status quo? Or will we continue to be the status quo?” Pratt-Clarke asked. “This question is particularly important for women because society is structured to have us not be part of the status quo.”

With 25 years of administrative, academic, and legal experience, Pratt-Clarke has led and managed large-scale institutionwide transformational strategic initiatives at public and private higher education institutions. Pratt-Clarke has authored several books, including “Critical Race, Feminism, and Education:  A Social Justice Model.” Her book “A Black Woman’s Journey from Cotton Picking to College Professor” was awarded the American Education Studies Association 2018 Critics’ Choice Book Award. 

“We must make stands and statements even when the outcome might not change.” She also said more men need to “open opportune doors for women — not in a chauvinistic way, but in a political way for women to walk through,” Pratt-Clarke said.

But she said silence and patience alone may not bring about change.

“We don’t need permission to do it. If we wait, permission will never come,” she said. “Silence does not dispel ignorance.”

In introducing Pratt-Clarke, UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez noted that a goal of UVU adminstration and a byproduct of events like the commemoration is to “find the middle ground, to make all feel welcomed and included.”

Anisha Adderly, vice president of the Black Student Union, told attendees to take the time to learn about issues of diversity — to “take the time to learn about the people who have made sure that you have the things you have now and learn about the stories that haven’t been told.”

The UVU commemoration was an all-day event and featured speakers addressing the theme “Democratizing the Dream: Black Women in Movements.”  The activities also noted the 100th year of women’s suffrage. To celebrate this milestone, there were various art exhibits of trailblazing women who were specifically highlighted by the UVU Black Student Union displayed across campus. Alongside these art presentations, UVU students hosted voter registration opportunities in an effort to increase UVU's student and community participation in the elections this year.