Anita Hill

The speaker for the 2011 Sojourner Truth Lecture Series is set: Brandeis University professor Anita Hill will deliver “Re-imagining Equality: Gender, Race, and Home in America” on March 3.

“This year we’ve decided to bring Anita Hill to campus because she’s a spokesperson and a catalyst for starting discussions on race and gender, and especially sexuality and politics and sexual discourse in the political sphere,” said Beth Degi, a graduate assistant at the Women and Gender Studies Center.

Hill is currently a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. She gained national media attention for her 1991 testimony, alleging that U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas had repeatedly made harassing sexual statements to her. The allegations came after Hill worked with Thomas at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the 1980s.

Hill recently appeared in the media after Thomas’ wife Virginia Thomas left a phone message at Hill’s Brandeis University office seeking an apology for her testimony.

“We’re not sure if Anita is going to reach out to the recent event concerning Thomas’ wife,” Degi said. “She gave testimony that she had been sexually harassed while she worked as a clerk. Clarence’s wife asked for an apology for her making that statement in Congress, and that stirred up a lot of public discourse about how women are seen as troublemaking when they make complaints for sexual harassment.”

“This discourse is a way to begin a dialogue on gender and race dynamics on campus,” Degi said. “Hill is going to discuss gender dynamics and how they play out on a daily basis.”

Degi said Hill will discuss conflict, identity and perception at the lecture and how those factors manifest themselves in the workplace.

“I think [Hill’s speech] really resonates with the attendees,” said Christine Hernandez, program coordinator for the Women and Gender Studies Center. “We’re all looking at our identity. I’m in a certain social class with an educational background, and I come from a different region. I’m not just a woman but I’m all these other things combined, so we’re always developing our identity. Having Anita speak is a great way to get perspective.”

“Having such a big name on campus on such a not-talked- about issue is really exciting,” Degi said. “I think her notoriety and expertise on this is going to draw a lot of people that might not necessarily engage in a conversation about identity. The fact that she is such a large name and has so much expertise in the area is going to draw in a lot of new people, and that’s really exciting.”

Hill is the latest speaker in the Sojourner Truth Lecture Series, and the Women and Gender Studies and African and African-American Studies will sponsor her visit. Past speakers include George Mason University professor Toby Jenkins, University of Richmond professor Daryl Cumber Dance and Donna Brazile, who directed Al Gore’s bid for the presidency in the 2000 election.

“The Sojourner Truth Lecture is a way to bridge Black History Month with Women’s History Month, to connect African-American studies with gender studies,” Degi said.

Degi said the Women and Gender Studies Executive Committee began putting together a list of names following last year’s lecture.

“It all kind of came together,” Degi said. “It’s been a long process. It’s been going on for months. It’s almost a year-long process to make sure this lecture comes in hand.”

Degi said the lecture series enables the Women and Gender Studies Center to collaborate with other organizations on campus.

“We’re really excited for this,” Hernandez said. “It’s the anchor and signature event for Women’s History Month.”

Degi said representatives from other schools in the area will attend, including American University, University of Maryland and George Washington University.
Hill will speak at Concert Hall in the Center for the Arts at 1:30 p.m. March 3. The event is free and open to the public.