The Clock Tower Accords commit Saint Louis University to actively strengthen diversity, access, and equity in pursuit of inclusive excellence on our campuses. In the spirit of the Gospels, the Accords also extend that commitment to our city and suburban neighbors, particularly our most marginalized and vulnerable communities.
The Accords are a very real, very impactful way for us to live our Jesuit mission. They address college readiness and affordability, neighborhood investment and revitalization, and the extraordinary research-proven benefits that diversity, equity and inclusion provide to everyday work and family life. They further our goal to become a national model for inclusive excellence and innovative community engagement for urban academic research institutions.
The Accords also provide a clear road map to help SLU pursue our vision to be a global Jesuit university that is mission-focused, student- and patient-centered and research-driven and that is working with the people of St. Louis to reimagine, transform and unify our city. There is no other urban university in the nation that is better equipped to have such an impact on a major city. We can. We are. We will.
The 13-point Accords concluded six days of a peaceful occupation at the campus clock tower that included daily teach-ins and community conversations during October 2014. The protests occurred following the officer-involved shootings of two African American young men: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and VonDerrit Myers, Jr., in the nearby Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis. These events struck close to home, geographically and literally, as VonDerrit Myers, Sr., has been a member of the SLU community for years.
The Accords were neither insisted nor negotiated. They developed as the outcome of many hours of dialogue between student leaders, neighborhood activists, faculty members, administrators and SLU President Dr. Fred Pestello. The pain of racial and economic injustice permeated those discussions, as did the respect and dignity with which all parties treated one another.
Living SLU’s Jesuit Values
No doubt, many watched the moral leadership we collectively exhibited that week and in the months that followed. SLU’s Facebook followers more than doubled to 30,000. Faith, neighborhood and government leaders praised us.
And a year later, SLU had enrolled, what was then, our second-largest — and most gifted — freshman class. New students and their parents said they chose SLU because of how we lived our Jesuit values. Graduating students remarked that #OccupySLU was a defining moment in their educational experience. First-to-second-year student retention rates also increased. And SLU had its second-best fundraising year ever. Now we turn this energy to commemorating Occupy SLU, revisiting and updating Clock Tower Accords, and continually challenging our institution to strive for inclusive excellence.
Few of our current students can say that they witnessed #OccupySLU in October 2014. So, it is incumbent that we share with our students and our community just how transformational that week was for the University. Each year during the week of October 12-18, we sponsor programming designed to illuminate the shared values of empathy, dignity and trust that were foundational to achieving a peaceful and constructive resolution. These values that focus on honest dialogue continue to guide us today in developing solutions that advance racial equity, economic opportunity and social justice for all.
The programming of our annual commemoration of #OccupySLU has varied from year to year, but one constant has been the reading aloud of remarks that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered to the University on October 12, 1964, exactly 50 years before #OccupySLU.
Our progress in addressing the letter and spirit of the 13 Clock Tower Accords follows.
The College of Arts and Sciences hired Dr. Christopher Tinson in 2018 as the director of the African American Studies Program with the ultimate goal of evolving the program into a department. The Department of African American Studies was officially announced May 18, 2021.
The annual budget of the African American Studies Program was increased in 2015. Additional funding for African American Studies has permitted the following:
- Valuable academic research by program faculty, including supporting the development of Dr. Karla Scott’s most recent book, The Language of Strong Black Womanhood: Myths, Models, Messages, and a New Mandate for Self-Care.
- Collaboration with other academic areas, resulting in expanded, cross-specialty instruction for SLU students. For example, faculty from African American Studies and the Department of Communication prepared and taught a training module for students to learn to be peer facilitators for intergroup dialogues. And Dr. Olubukola Gbadegesin, an associate professor in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, hosted an evening of workshops with local artists who created works inspired by the Ferguson protests of 2014. The workshops were held in 2015 and were attended by students from Metro Academic and Classical High School, Grand Center Arts Academy and Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School. SLU students also participated in the workshops.
- Classroom enrichment and support for students.
- Opportunities for inspiring national voices such as activist Alicia Garza, public intellectual Ibram X Kendi, documentary filmmaker Sandra Pfeifer, author and filmmaker MK Asante, and Princeton University Professor Imani Perry to be heard on campus.
The sustained increase in the African American budget underscores the shared leadership role program faculty play with the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement in advancing racial, gender and economic equity on campus and in the larger community.
This Accord also spurred a move by the Black Student Alliance to a larger, more productive office space in the Busch Student Center. This prominent BSA home has helped draw in more students to collaborate on developing engaging programs and events at SLU.
In 2019, alumni and non-alumni donors directed more funds than ever to need-based
scholarships at SLU. They recognize that their support of grants or scholarships can
help enable life-changing educations for undergraduate students — particularly young students of
color — whose families could not otherwise afford tuition, room and board.
With heightened donor support, SLU has boosted the average total of grants awarded to economically disadvantaged students, including eligible African American students, by 17 percent since 2014.
The number of graduating seniors with student loans to repay has been reduced by 6
percent due to the combined efforts of staff across the University, including Development,
Student Development, Academic Advising, and Enrollment and Retention Management. In
fact, more than 40 percent of SLU students who graduated in 2018 had zero educational
For economically disadvantaged students, including some who are African American, financial aid has come through such sources as:
- The Pioneers of Inclusion Scholarship, which supports students of color who are first-generation college students and/or from low- to moderate-income families, established by the Black Alumni Association in 2014.
- The Saint Peter Claver Service Scholarship, which provides grants to students from urban communities.
- The Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, which is offered to students who have demonstrated leadership as change agents through their school and/or community activities. This scholarship has expanded its eligibility requirements to second-, third- and fourth-year students, including transfer students. The gift aid provided to recipients averaged more than 64 percent of the cost of tuition, room and board.
- The ACCESS Academies Scholarship a new scholarship which fully funds tuition, room and board at SLU for graduates of ACCESS Academies programs from five area Catholic schools.
- The Jonathan C. Smith, Ph.D. Memorial Endowed Scholarship was established in memory of Dr. Jonathan Smith, a fierce advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Saint Louis University. The endowed scholarship will support SLU students who graduated from St. Louis-area high schools who demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Additionally, these scholarship funds — and all SLU undergraduate scholarships — benefit from SLU’s Go Further scholarship matching program, which matches dollar for dollar all scholarship awards of $100 or more.
In 2021, SLU welcomed its second largest class and most diverse class in history. SLU admitted 22.9% pell grant eligible students (up 2% from 2019). Students of color constituted 22.1% of incoming first time, full time freshman (5% increase from 2019). First generation college students comprised 25% of incoming students, (8% increase from 2019).
To ensure retention of SLU's most diverse incoming class, SLU launched the Billiken's First Chapter (BFC), a first-year retention initiative combining SLU’s academic excellence with support services to assist a diverse student population with their personal, social, and academic transition to college. We offer navgivation resources that positively impact retention and graduation rates.
Whether students are looking for a safe space for conversations, ways to get involved on campus, volunteer opportunities in the community, or strategies to be successful in the classroom— Billikens’ First Chapter will assist first-year students with becoming immersed in the SLU community and finding a sense of belonging at SLU.
Additional programs benefit our most marginalized and vulnerable students throughout their SLU journey, including our SLU McNair Scholars and SOAR programs.
SLU was awarded a new five-year McNair Scholars Program grant valued at $1.2 million or $240,000 per year. The McNair Scholars Program supports first-generation college students who demonstrate financial need and are traditionally underrepresented in graduate education. SLU McNair Serves approximately 25 students annually from institutions throughout the St. Louis metropolitan region, including Saint Louis University, Fontbonne University, Harris-Stowe State University, University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), Washington University in St. Louis, and Webster University.
Grants from the program help prepare SLU undergraduate students to pursue a Ph.D via funded work experiences, conferences, research and other scholarly activities. The University plans to award McNair Scholars grants to 25 students a year through the 2021–2022 academic year.
Funded by the provost's office, the Students' Opportunity for Achievement and Resources (SOAR) Program works with first-generation college students (defined as neither parent or gaurdian having graduated with a four-year degree), those who have received a Pell grant, or students who have a registered disability throughout their time at Saint Louis University. The SOAR Program provides resources and services these students need on their path to college graduation and whatever lies beyond. We achieve this by taking a holistic approach, meeting the student at their level of need, providing intensive academic advising, advocating for and with them, developing a sense of educational responsibility within each student, and celebrating the milestones along the way. SOAR serves up to 200 students annually and works with SLU students from freshmen through senior year.
Saint Louis University is much more intentional about actively recruiting students from underrepresented groups, including African American juniors and seniors who attend public and private high schools within 250 miles of St. Louis.
More students from marginalized and vulnerable populations are receiving more grant dollars to fund their education at SLU. Grants now account for more than 56% of the cost of tuition, room, board and books for these students. Our Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students are recipients of these need-based grants, too.
Staff from the Division of Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement, Student Development, and the Office of Enrollment and Retention Management are working together to help remedy the myriad challenges that could stress individual African American students and lead to their withdrawal from school. This includes creating the Billiken First Chapter, hiring two new staff members specializing in recruitment, retention, and leadership development as Special Assistants to the Vice President of DICE, and establishing equity and wellness programs designed to promote human flourishing for our most marginzlied and vulnerable students.
With the signing of the Clock Tower Accords, SLU has strengthened the collective efforts of students, staff and faculty to help further the academic success of children and teens right in our own backyard, especially those deterred by poverty.
College workshops are one of the most illuminating ways high school juniors and seniors can see what’s required to successfully make that transition to college student — and college graduate.
SLU’s college workshops cover everything from the admissions process and financial aid to study skills and dorm life. In an academic school year, our admission office hosts more than 100 workshops, including nearly 40 in Missouri’s most disadvantaged public school districts.
At least twice a year, our admissions staff visit 16 middle and high schools in St. Louis city, where the majority of students receive free or reduced-price lunches, another strong indicator of families living in poverty. Disadvantaged students at those schools talk with our admissions staff about after-school and summer programs to help prepare for their post-secondary education at SLU.
Our Office of Admission and the Division of Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement also have partnered with our Pre-College and Access Programs office to boost interest and enthusiasm among high school, middle school and elementary school students of color to pursue STEM and other specialized professional careers. The University’s partnerships with Inspire STL have been critical to many of these efforts.
Beginning in the summer of 2019, hundreds of local elementary and high school students — many of whom came from disadvantaged families and school districts — participated in more than 60 separate academic programs on our campus. Those programs, we believe, exposed students to new discoveries, experiences and role models that we hope will stimulate a commitment to school and studies — and a brighter future.
Little Medical School, Little Nursing School and Little Sports Medicine School programs brought a kid’s-eye view of medicine and science to K-5 students — and stimulated aspirations. Introductory programming classes offered hands-on desktop and mobile coding with Java, Scratch, HTML5 and Swift for middle school students. Engineering and aviation academies for high school students provided week-long immersive introductions to those careers.
Five Catholic elementary and high schools in St. Louis host an intensive study skills and mentoring program for students from disadvantaged families. Called Access Academies, the program works very intentionally to help ensure children are academically successful in each successive grade. Here at SLU, our Access Academies Scholarships will sustain that individual student investment by providing a full, four-year ride to qualified Access Academies graduates.
While many of these programs were put on hold during the summer of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are looking forward to retuning even stronger than never.
SLU Talent Search is funded by a five-year grant for $1,386,870 to identify and assist 501 middle and high school students per year from disadvantaged backgrounds in St. Louis public schools. Our goal is to increase the number of these students who complete high school and enroll in and complete post-secondary educational credentials. In addition to endless encouragement, Educational Talent Search provides academic, career, and financial counseling to its participants.
We educate students and families about the availability of financial assistance and assist with the application process for both financial aid and post-secondary opportunities. Educational Talent Search also encourages people who have not completed educational programs at the secondary or post-secondary level to reenter the educational pipeline and complete post-secondary educational credentials.
Our office and staff from Pre-College Access and Programs create summer and after-school bridge programs that engage and excite elementary and high school students in the Shaw neighborhood and the Normandy school district. These efforts are applying valuable lessons from current SLU programs about how to best secure vigorous student participation and sustained attendance.
Shut It Down is one such model. Founded by the late Norm White, Ph.D., the six-year-old program is helping counteract the school-to-prison pipeline that has long destabilized African American families and neighborhoods in St. Louis — and our society.
Despite the heartbreaking loss of Dr. White in December 2017, the Shut It Down team continues to work with teachers across St. Louis public schools to better serve children so affected by the trauma of poverty that their classroom behavior deters their ability to learn. Shut It Down firnly believes that Suspension is not the solution. Teachers are using new skills that help their students better manage stress and other emotions, and return to reading, writing and math.
In September 2020 Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) granted $250k for the Shut it Down Program at SLU. The program aims to integrate the tenets and strategies of Shut it Down into the School of Education (SOE) at Saint Louis University and streamline the process for schools by creating professional development, coursework, and two masters degrees for teachers that embed theory and practice related to racial equity, culturally sustaining pedagogies, and trauma informed educational practices. This shift will make Shut it Down sustainable and will expand the reach of the program beyond the handful of St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) schools that have benefited from the program. The institutionalization of Shut it Down will strengthen the SOE, which each year trains approximately 75 teachers and administrators who serve the St. Louis area.
In summer 2020, the School of Education at Saint Louis University partnered with Access Academies to provide summer tutors for the Summer Bridge Program, which aims to support current eighth grade graduates from local schools — St. Louis Catholic Academy, Most Holy Trinity, and St. Cecilia — as they approach their transition into high school.
Access Academies works to propel at-risk middle school students through high school and on to college and a successful career through enrichment programs, individualized counseling, and financial support. Access Academies’ Summer Bridge Program is intended to better prepare students for high school by giving them a head-start on high school work and alleviating their anxiety about high school performance. The four-week virtual program began in June 2020 using both Google Classroom and Zoom, in which tutors work both one-on-one and in small groups with the students.
SLU moved to a standardized test optional admission process for all undergraduate and most graduate programs beginning with students applying for admission to the 2021-2022 academic year. Test optional means that prospective students may submit standardized test scores, but those who choose not to will not be disadvantaged in any way in the admission process. Despite removing mandatory testing for incoming students, our incoming, average GPA for the 2021-2022 academic year increased.
SLU’s partnership in St. Louis City neighborhoods and St. Louis County communities is active and long standing. It includes more than 300 programs in which our students, staff and faculty are working alongside local teachers, nurses, doctors, business people, clergy and activists. Programs such as SLU Legal Clinics, Casa de Salud, and the Girls Academy for Leadership and Engineering have positively affected the lives of our disadvantaged neighbors.
Additionally, Saint Louis University is opening the first community resource hub in the Hyde Park neighborhood in north city. Saint Louis Public School District (SLPS) made the difficult decision to close seven public schools in the city due to low enrollment. Saint Louis University reached out to SLPS and offered to open a community resource hub in one of the closed schools in an effort to bring much needed resources to the area while also keeping the building viable so students can return to its halls within the next three years. Working with a large team of community partners, Hyde Park residents, the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity, and the Office of the Vice President for Research, SLU negotiated a contract and is scheduled to begin delivering services at the end of 2021. Services will include health screenings, immunizations and vaccinations, a food pantry, garden, after school programming, apprenticeships, and an incubator for small business start-ups and idea exchange. The Clay Community Resource Hub is meant to serve inter-generational Hyde Park residents in a proactive and highly engaged way that is not prescriptive.
At SLU, we recognize that public art enhances the quality of life across the city, in our neighborhoods and on our three St. Louis campuses. A public art committee was formed in 2015 to produce the commissioned art work commemorating Occupy SLU. That committee quickly realized that one piece of art wasn't enough, thus we are revisiting this accord as an opportunity to develop an Artist Residency program that will bring diverse artist to our Fine and Performing Arts faculty, multiple art works to our campus and connected communities, and a spirit of prolonged engagement with local artists and activists cultivating social change. We expect to welcome our first resident in the fall of 2022.
Mindful of the depth and breadth of community engagement initiatives SLU has in the St. Louis region, some believe a very focused, neighborhood-based approach may help us provide a more coordinated and sustained impact on disadvantaged children and families.
Our Near North Side neighborhood partnership with the City of St. Louis commits us to working together to establish a Center for Community and Economic Development and provide “education, employment, entrepreneurship and other programming opportunities” in an area targeted for federal Critical Community Improvements funds.
SLU formally launched The Institute for Healing, Injustice and Equity (IHJE), a winner of an internal Big Idea grant competition among our research faculty. This mission of the institution is to eliminate disparities caused by systemic oppression and promote healing justice. Through research, training, community engagement and public policy development, the Institute will help build equitable communities by assessing and promoting best practices that foster healing from social injustice, trauma and oppression. The IHJE was co-founded by Ruqaiijah Yearby, J.D., professor of law and the institute's executive director; Amber Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of communication; Kira Banks, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology; and Keon Gilbert, DrPH, associate professor of behavioral science and health education.
The Institute for Healing Justice and Equity (IHJE) began its groundbreaking work in St. Louis in 2018, with a founding investment by SLU of more than $1.7 million, and continues to garner major grants while researching and publishing at an impressive pace. Check out their latest publication on governmental use of racial requity tools. In addition to their groundbreaking research, the Institute is a community partner helping to build and sustain the Clay Community Resource Hub.
Established in 2009, the President’s Diversity Council amended its charter to act formally as the race, poverty and inequality steering committee. The group helped guide how SLU fulfills both the letter and spirit of the Clock Tower Accords.
In 2020, a new task force called the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee was charged with developing the recommendations for the steering committee along with:
- Reviewing and assessing our progress towards implementing the Clock Tower Accords
- Developing recommendations to supplement and enhance Accords goals
- Developing recommendations to address the concerns brought to us by Black students, staff, faculty and alumni
- Developing a structure to discern our future goals, paths, and timelines to completion
The members of that committee were:
- Dr. Daniel Blash, Vice Dean of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Chief Diversity Officer for the School of Medicine
- Jori T. Brewer, President, Black Student Association
- Belinda Dantley, J.D., Director of Inclusion and Diversity Education, School of Law
- William P. Johnson, Dean, School of Law
- Dr. Michael F. Jones II (’16), President, The Black Alumni Association
- Dr. Debie R. Lohe, Interim Vice President, Student Development
- Dr. Rubén Rosario Rodríguez, Professor, Theology
- Dr. Jonathan Smith, Vice President, Diversity and Community Engagement
- Dr. Christopher Tinson, Director, African American Studies
Now that the committee has consolidated the demands, we decided to fold them into a larger, campus-wide team called DINO DICE to drive the notion that diversity, equity, inclusion, and access must be campus-wide and everyone’s responsibility. DINO stands for Discover, Include, Navigate, and Organize, and is an action-based task force with 70 members from every pocket of the university including the Department of Public Safety and Facilities. This committee will work on an accelerated timeline to fully realize the Clock Tower Accords, reimagine new accords that speak to 2021, and ensure we understand and communicate all of the issues and successes happening across campus.
SLU sponsored the 2019 Racial and Equity Summit with The Clark-Fox Policy Institute, FOCUS St. Louis, Forward Through Ferguson, St. Louis Promise Zone, and the United Way of Greater St. Louis.
SLU sponsored the 2018 and 2019 Diversity Awareness Partnership Annual Diversity Summit. Dr. Jonathan Smith presented on the theme: Lessons from the Academy: Surveying the DE&I Landscape.
In November 2018, SLU sponsored the Women in Hip Hop Conference. Aisha Durham, Hip Hop Feminist and Associate Professor at University of South Florida served as the keynote speaker.
In October 2018, The Institute for Family Services convened its annual Liberation-Based Healing Conference at SLU. Liberation-based healing promotes transformative and intergenerational healing strategies to address the complex problems of domestic violence, sexual abuse, addictions and adolescent struggles. This conference brought together health care practitioners, community activists, faith and community leaders, educators and students from around the country. They discussed relational healing and the societal matrix that shapes the relationships of power, privilege, and oppression, while building on the foundations of critical consciousness, empowerment and accountability.
Numerous SLU faculty, staff and students led workshops and presentations. For example, Jennifer Bello-Kottenstette, M.D., assistant professor of family and community medicine at the School of Medicine, and second-year SLU medical students Abou Kaba, Monica Goodland and Kelsey Kennedy reviewed the social determinants of health.
Dr. Kira Banks, associate professor of psychology, and Dr. Amber Johnson, associate professor of communication, led a session called “Bridging social activism, art and music with healing initiative.”
And Dr. Richard Marks, interim director of SLU’s Cross Cultural Center, and Dr. Leonard McKinnis, assistant professor of constructive theology and African American religions, joined Dr. Smith to discuss “Black and brown voices: resisting toxic masculinity and embracing gender fluidity.”
“Dr. King and the Social Justice Movement” was the topic of our Spring 2018 racial equality conference. Among the speakers were Dr. M. Shawn Copeland, Dr. Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr., Dr. Dwight N. Hopkins and the late Dr. James H. Cone, the founder of Black Liberation Theology.
Local clergy and community leaders also participated in the event, which was cosponsored by the University’s Bicentennial Committee and our Theology Department.
This conference followed several other seminars and conferences hosted by SLU, through its Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, that have promoted the advancement of diversity, inclusion, and educational and economic opportunity — on campus and in St. Louis.
The Saint Louis Regional Consortium in Higher Education on Black Male Success formed in April 2017 as a bi-state network of the Saint Louis area colleges and universities. This initiative was led by The United Way of Greater St. Louis. Institutions represented include Fontbonne University, Harris Stowe State University, Lindenwood University, Maryville University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Saint Louis Community College, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri- Saint Louis, Washington University in Saint Louis and, Webster University. The Consortium is a community of practice that works to build its members’ capacity to educate and graduate Black male students through radical and strategic collaboration, resource land data sharing, and program alignment. This initiative was created on the following two purposes: to advance the educational, professional, and social achievement of college-age Black men in the Saint Louis region; and to increase Saint Louis based colleges’ and universities’ capacity to educate and graduate Black male students. Since our inception in April of 2017, we have worked to build the foundation for supporting Black males through advocating for the establishment of a Black male initiative and/or support system on each of our campus. Saint Louis University – AAMS is hosting the 3rd Annual Black Male Leadership Conference on February 6, 2021 (virtually). Attendees [2018 – 85; 2019 – 173; 2021 – Goal is 200+].
Our conference on Race, Faith and Justice was held in August 2016. It was attended by more than 100 people representing a spectrum of viewpoints and experiences, including university students, community activists, faith leaders, public officials and educators. The three-day conference was organized with the help of SLU student-members of the Black Student Alliance and Tribe X.
Panel discussions were moderated by Brendan Underwood, then a first-year SLU student. The conversations made clear that problems of race, poverty and inequality remain complex and difficult to solve. At the same time, participants shone a bright light on the fact that they and many others are committed, in word and action, to making a difference.
In May 2016, we organized the African Americans in the Nineteenth-Century West: Symposium and Teacher Workshop. More than 30 social studies and history instructors from middle and high schools in the St. Louis area attended the sessions. They learned new and innovative ways to incorporate the history, legacy and identity of African-Americans into their classroom curricula — and truly engage their students.
Faculty from Jesuit academic institutions throughout the country gathered at SLU in November 2015 for a Jesuits and Race symposium. Discussions at the conference have helped Jesuit colleges and universities begin to confront — and seek forgiveness for — their use of slaves and slave labor prior to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
The Division of Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement also underwrites travel and registration fees for students and faculty to attend conferences that promote diversity, inclusion and racial justice.
Promoted from special assistant to vice president for diversity and community engagement, the late Dr. Jonathan Smith, inaugural VP, played a lead role on campus and throughout the St. Louis area, helping the University forge stronger bonds of common human purpose and shared values across the distinctions of race, class, gender, sexual identity and faith.
Dr. Pestello first encountered Dr. Smith’s leadership style, creative problem solving, and dedication to SLU’s core mission in October 2014, just three months after Dr. Pestello became SLU’s first lay president.
Students and neighborhood residents initiated a series of campus protests promoting racial equality and social justice. They were showing support for acts of civil disobedience occurring in and around Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown. Protests also took place at many colleges and universities across the country.
But few campus actions achieved the calm and remarkable outcome witnessed at SLU. Dr. Smith, a professor of African-American Studies, was one of several faculty members who supported Dr. Pestello’s strategy to live the University’s Jesuit values and secure a peaceful and constructive resolution to six days of student protests and teach-ins. The University’s reaffirmation of Jesuit values and its formal commitment to inclusion, diversity and community engagement are embodied in the 13-point Clock Tower Accords.
The following summer, Dr. Smith was appointed special assistant to the president for diversity and community engagement and to oversee the University’s fulfillment of the Accords, in both letter and spirit. Prior to his untimely death, Dr. Smith was a key advisor and proxy for Dr. Pestello, as well as a trusted and go-to administrator for students, faculty and staff on issues of diversity, inclusion and economic justice.
Right before Dr. Smith's passing, he and Dr. Amber Johnson collaborated on a new position to bolster the efforts of the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement. The new Associate Provost position was announced three days before Dr. Smith transitioned. Dr. Johnson now serves as the interim vice president of the Division for Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement (DICE) and pledges to uphold and realize Dr. Smith's legacy and vision.
Inspirational human rights leaders from across the country have visited SLU to promote inclusion, diversity and equality in our communities — and to inspire our students to challenge social and racial injustice in meaningful ways. In collaboration with numerous deans, faculty and student organizations at SLU, The Division of Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement has hosted a wide range of energizing human rights champions at campus events.
Among our partners are: the Black Student Association, Great Issues Committee, Communication Department, Women’s and Gender Studies Department, American Studies Department, School of Education, African-American Studies Department, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and the Missouri History Museum.
Kat Lazo is a Colombian-Peruvian New Yorker known as the Internet's favorite no-nonsense Latina who tells it how it is -- in front of and behind the camera. She transitioned her popularity as a YouTuber into a thriving career as a video producer. With more than eight years of digital video production experience, her work has been featured by The New York Times, Huffpost, Latina Magazine and Buzzfeed just to name a few. As a video producer for the Latino digital platform Mitú, she is most known for her series The Kat Call. She developed and hosted the series, where she debunked taboos and misconceptions about the Latino community.
Ibram X. Kendi
Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the author of “How to Be an Anti-Racist,” headlined the Fall 2020 Emmett J. and Mary Martha Doerr Center for Social Justice Education and Research lecture.
During Occupy SLU week, Alicia Garza, activist, editorial writer and founder of the Black Lives Matter spoke in the Center for Global Citizenship. While the BLM movement has been around since 2013, originally founded in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, atrocities have been committed against Black Americans since the establishment of America as a country and continue to happen. It is these injustices that Black Lives Matter seeks to call attention to. In response to the BLM movement, SLU’s staff, faculty, students and admin have begun to make changes to the campus themselves. This response includes adjustments and dialogue to promote inclusion, diversity and equity for the university—as well as trying to support the BLM movement mission to create a campus free of anti-blackness.
As a highlight of Atlas Week 2019 ABC News veteran John Quinones shared his journey from migrant farm work and poverty to more than 30 years at ABC News and the anchor desk at 20/20 and Primetime. Quinones is also the creator and host of the ethical dilemma newsmagazine What Would You Do? His moving presentations focused on his odds-defying journey, celebrating the life-changing power of education, championing the Latino American Dream, and providing thought-provoking insights into human nature and ethical behavior.
Martin Luther King III
The son of two of the 20th Century's most famed civil rights activists called for continued work toward racial equity and social justice at the 2019 MLK Memorial Tribute honoring the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Martin Luther King III called the crowd’s attention to pressing issues including family separations at the U.S./Mexico border, continued discrimination on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation, voter suppression and economic insecurity. He recalled his parents’ belief in their fellow women and men to bring out change and urged those gathered to take up the Civil Rights Movement’s call to action.
The Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington
The founder and president of the Baltimore-based Washington Consulting Group, the Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington emboldened SLU students to lead with “courageous action,” one of four pillars of leadership he had identified. The other pillars cited by Dr. Washington are awareness of self, awareness of others and collaboration.
With courageous action, student leaders must move outside their comfort zones to engage openly with new and different voices, Dr. Washington told students. Exposure to others from very different life experiences helps open student leaders to new ways to comprehend issues and solve problems, Dr. Washington said. It also helps promote the leadership traits of human dignity and respect.
He also encouraged student leaders to focus their energies and not spread themselves too thin.
The previous day, Dr. Washington tailored his inspirational observations on leadership to separate groups of staff and faculty at SLU.
Dr. Ashon Crawley
More than 60 students, faculty and staff welcomed Ashon Crawley, Ph.D., author of Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility. Dr. Crawley, an assistant professor of religious studies and African American and African studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, took listeners on a personal journey of identity and belonging, alienation and reconciliation from his youth to his time in London pursuing his doctorate, “searching for something that will ground you.” Imagination was a key to his personal growth and resilience, he said. “And the practice of imagination is needed if we’re going to pursue peace and justice.”
St. Louis native Ntozake Shange wrote the Obie Award-winning and groundbreaking play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. In an event co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, Shange
read poems to musical accompaniment at the Missouri History Museum before a captivated
audience that included members of the SLU community. Shange also authored the novels
Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo; Liliane; and Betsey Brown, and a book of essays called Lost in Language & Sound. She co-wrote the children’s books Coretta Scott and Ellington Was Not a Street.
Dr. Talitha LeFlouria
“Black Women and Girls in the U.S. (In)Justice System: Historical and Contemporary Struggles” was the topic of the 2017 Bridge Lecture featuring Talitha LeFlouria, Ph.D. Dr. LeFlouria is an associate professor of African-American Studies at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. Her academic focus is the imprisonment of black women in the post-Civil War South. She is the author of the award-winning history of Georgia’s system for incarcerating women, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South. Dr. LeFlouria’s research and commentary on black women and convict labor was featured in the Sundance award-nominated documentary Slavery by Another Name. She is researching and writing her second book, Doctoring Captivity: Prison Physicians and Incarcerated Patients in the Post-Civil War South.
Writer and transgender activist Janet Mock was a keynote speaker as part of Free to [Be] Week at SLU. She is the founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media project that empowers trans women. Her second book, Surpassing Certainty, a memoir about her 20s, was published in June 2017. Mock’s first memoir about growing up as a transgender youth in Hawaii, Redefining Realness, was a New York Times bestseller in 2014.
Dr. George C. Fraser
Ohio entrepreneur and author Dr. George Fraser was a keynote speaker at the sixth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial tribute. The event was sponsored
by SLU and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. The key to racial equality
is economic empowerment, Dr. Fraser told the gathering. Speaking to African-Americans
in attendance, he said, “There is no one to save us, but us.” And he urged black Americans to start and build businesses that “employ our people.”
Dr. Fraser is chair and CEO of FraserNet, Inc., a company he founded nearly 30 years
ago. FraserNet connects black entrepreneurs, professional managers and investors through
networking. He is the author of four books: Success Runs in Our Race: The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the African-American
Community; Race for Success: The Ten Best Business Opportunities for Blacks in America; Click:
Ten Truths for Building Extraordinary Relationships; and the children’s book, Who Would Have Thunk It!
Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
In remarks to the SLU community, the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou recalled the societal
impact of the Ferguson movement and its engagement of SLU students, faculty and staff,
during events honoring the student protests of October 2014. Later his musical group,
The Holy Ghost, performed selections from their just-released album, The Revolution Has Come. A frequent speaker in SLU classrooms and for student organizations, Rev. Sekou also
spoke at SLU’s 2016 conference on Race, Faith and Justice. In 2015, Rev. Sekou was named to Ebony magazine’s Power 100 list. Four years earlier, the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, Alabama,
honored him with its Keeper of the Flame Award.
“Telling the Truth in Public” was the title of activist DeRay Mckesson’s address to
the SLU community. The event was co-sponsored by the Black Student Alliance. An ardent
champion of America’s Black Lives Matter movement, Mckesson harnessed social media
to bring compelling audio, video and images of racial protests of Ferguson, Missouri,
and Baltimore, Maryland, to young people around the world. He also is a co-founder
of Campaign Zero, a policy platform to improve police interactions with people of color and ensure
accountability. He currently hosts the podcast, Pod Save the People.
Alison Harding Buchanan
The acclaimed British soprano Alison Harding Buchanan shared songs celebrating diversity, social justice and inclusion at College Church. The performance was part of Atlas Week at SLU. She has performed with opera companies and symphony orchestras, including those in New York, Detroit, Baltimore, Boston, London and Sao Paolo.
Dr. Toniesha L. Taylor
Toniesha Taylor, Ph.D., talked to the SLU community about the use of digital media to build and foster social
movements. Dr. Taylor is an assistant professor of communication in the Department
of Languages and Communication at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas.
Dr. Taylor’s most recent publication was the essay “Transformative Womanist Rhetorical
Strategies: Contextualizing Discourse and the Performance of Black Bodies of Desire,”
published in Black Being, Black Embodying: Contemporary Arts & The Performance of Identities.
Dr. Ayesha Hardison
The guest speaker at the 2016 Bridge Lecture, Ayesha Hardison, Ph.D., shared insights
about the portrayal of black women in novels, magazines and newspapers during the
Jim Crow era, gleaned from her 2014 book, Writing through Jane Crow: Race and Gender Politics in African American Literature. Dr. Hardison is an associate professor of English, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the
University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, where she teaches African-American literature.
She currently is researching and writing a literary history of the Civil Rights Movement.
An icon of the Civil Rights Movement, Chicago native Diane Nash was a witness to some of the most historic episodes in American history. She helped lead the sit-ins of segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1960 with other Fisk University students. A year later, she helped coordinate the Freedom Rides, a new non-violent tactic by student activists that would trigger segregationist violence and shame the Kennedy administration into action. In 1963, Nash played key roles in the boycott of Birmingham, Alabama, merchants and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. And she helped organize the 54-mile march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. Nash was keynote speaker at the fifth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial tribute, where she was awarded the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Civil Rights Award by SLU and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. “Social change,” she told the SLU community, “is part of the human condition.”
A packed auditorium greeted activist and actress Laverne Cox at an event cosponsored by the SLU Rainbow Alliance. Costar of the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, Cox talked of her extraordinary journey from Mobile, Alabama, to Hollywood as a black, transgender woman. The Emmy nominee was featured on the cover of the June 9, 2014, issue of Time magazine and in its story “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier.”
Dr. Smith met regularly with the executive boards of multicultural chartered student organizations, the vice president of diversity of SGA and members of the president’s Diversity Council. Among the topics were the University’s sustained efforts to abide by the letter and spirit of the Clock Tower Accords.
In 2021, DINO DICE was formed to continue this important work, but with an even larger collaborative spirit. DINO stands for Discover, Include, Navigate, and Organize, and is an action-based task force with 70 members from every pocket of the university including the Department of Public Safety and Facilities. This committee will work to fulfill the Clock Tower Accords and imagine best ways to leverage university resources to address systemic injustice in our connected communities.