Are we there yet? Speakers look forward and back at MCC MLK event

The MLK scholarship recipients with Chancellor Kimberly Beatty and other MCC and MCC Foundation officials

The Chancellor’s Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Luncheon included appeals for love instead of hate, as well as reflections on how African-Americans and others have fared since King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

Another highlight of the event was the announcement of the 2018 Chancellor’s MLK scholarship winners, one from each MCC campus. (Read about them here.)

About 175 employees and guests attended the fourth annual MLK luncheon Jan. 19 at MCC-Penn Valley.

Dr. Kimberly Beatty, in an address titled “Are We There Yet?,” said that she “struggled with the appointment (as MCC chancellor) and the fanfare that I knew would ensue” — because she’d be “the first” once again, this time MCC’s first African-American chancellor.

But “despite the many times as an African-American woman I prefer my accomplishment to be the focus and not my race, I have to realize that truly they are one and the same,” she said.

Dr. Beatty shared her journey from “meager beginnings” to the MCC chancellor’s office. The story moved her to tears at times, including when she recounted telling her father she’d be attending an historically black college. “I’ll never forget him telling me, ‘You’re going to end up getting a black education and a black job.’ ”

But after she took the MCC position, father and daughter had a chance to revisit that earlier conversation. “And I said, ‘How do you like me now?!’ ” Dr Beatty said, to laughs from the audience.

She told the story of a former English 102 student of hers at Cypress College in California. Although the young man showed up to class “in sagging pants,” he went on to find success. “Can we really say that we don’t pass judgment on our students?” Dr. Beatty asked, whether those judgments are based on skin color, socioeconomic status or, yes, droopy pants.

She said she has charged Robert Page, MCC’s executive director of inclusion and engagement, with implementing cultural sensitivity training for everyone at the College.

Chancellor Kimberly Beatty

Referring to the “promissory note” portion of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Beatty said that the mission of community colleges is access to education for all. One could argue that King’s words helped launch the community college charge to democratize higher education, she added.

Do all prospective students have the socioeconomic capacity to come to college? Do they have the academic and social capacity to handle college? “I think we all know the answer is no,” Dr. Beatty said. But the College made “a bold move toward equity” when the Board of Trustees this month approved a 50 percent discounted tuition rate for many high school students taking MCC courses.

“Are we ready to focus on tomorrow and not yesterday?” Dr. Beatty asked. “Are we ready to focus on the good things to come and not the things or decisions that prevented progress? Are we ready to trust that we will become a high-performing  institution focused on students?

“Are we there yet? I have faith that we will get there, but there is an urgency of now.”

Social justice advocate and author Kevin Powell also spoke at the event. Powell, who rose to fame as one of the housemates on the first season of MTV’s “The Real World,” said hearing Dr. Beatty’s coming-up story brought to mind his own mother and “our journey together.” His family was also poor. His mom has an eighth-grade education; he is a first-generation college graduate.

Dr. King was a highly educated and accomplished man, Powell says, but “he never thought that he was above anyone, in spite of his credentials.” Shortly before he was assassinated, he was organizing sanitation workers.

Kevin Powell

Powell said his mom celebrated her 20th birthday the day of MLK’s “Dream” speech. She was in “the backwoods of South Carolina” then, no TV or radio, but through the “human internet” she heard there were people in a place called Washington fighting for equality and jobs.

Powell noted that just a half-century ago, “the beautiful diversity” he saw before him at the MLK luncheon at MCC would not have existed.

Speaking about the challenges that face us — racism, sexism, classism — Powell cited a variety of groups that continue to struggle, including “half the country’s and the world’s population”: women.

Powell, who decided at the age of 11 he wanted to be a writer, grew up exposed to no or few writers who were black, Latino, Native American, queer, poor or women. He mentioned other groups that are marginalized, such as the disabled or those persecuted because of their religious beliefs.

The solution? “We can’t hate people — period,” Powell said. “We have to spread love.”

He added, “What does it matter — your status, your credentials — if you’re not serving other people?”

Katrice Heard (left) offers closing thoughts on MLK’s legacy.

Katrice Heard, administrative assistant for the Facilities Department, echoed Powell’s sentiments in the closing moments of the program. “I challenge you all to make someone’s day” and to “create some sunshine,” she said.

A special guest at the event was Lamonte McIntyre, recently freed from prison after serving 23 years for crimes he didn’t commit. MCC offered McIntyre a full scholarship, and he is now a student at MCC-Penn Valley.


70+ pictures on MCC’s main Facebook page

Even more pictures on MCC-Penn Valley’s Facebook page

Facebook Live video of the program

Five MCC students win Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarships