TORRIA CATRONE, Arts & Life Editor—This Black history month, Denison is making an effort to highlight Black academic voices and hold important conversations concerning race and America. As part of a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration this past Monday, February 8, Denison’s own Dr. Heather Pool had the opportunity to be in conversation with keynote speaker Dr. Danielle Allen, one of the leading political philosophers in the United States.
Dr. Allen is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She is a well respected political theorist in the United States, and in 2018 wrote an article entitled “Integration, Freedom, and the Affirmation of Life” which analyzes Dr. King’s essay “The Ethical Demands for Integration” (1962).

During the conversation, Dr. Allen focused on Dr. King’s message concerning democracy and power, highlighting his hallmark doctrine of nonviolence. One important concept she brought up was the dynamics of power in a democracy; she argued that democracy is relational rather than imposed down upon the people. In order for liberal institutions to work, she stated, healthy, equal relationships are necessary.

Following the virtual conversation, on Tuesday, February 9, 16 students were given the opportunity to attend a 45-minute class session led by Dr. Allen. Students who attended were expected to have read Dr. Allen’s article and be prepared to enter into discussion with her about the topic.
Dr. Allen’s conversation was also the first challenge activity in the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge, which is a three-week challenge asking participants to do one action every day to further their understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity.

Over 500 Denison staff, students, and local community members have signed up to participate in the challenge. The challenge includes daily action items for participants. Each day presents a different topic of racial equity to focus on in the day’s action items, which include activities such as reading antiracism resources and watching informative lectures, among others. There are also reflection spaces available on the weekends, as well as a daily discussion board.