Meena Harris, entrepreneur and author, to speak at virtual Founders Week event

Discussion will focus on institutional efforts to address racism and inequity

Meena Harris, entrepreneur and author, to speak at virtual Founders Week event
Meena Harris will be speaking at Founder's Week on Feb. 25

Update: This article has been updated to reflect a Thursday email from AUSG, stating that the event has been rescheduled.

Feb. 25:

A Founders Week event scheduled for Thursday evening featuring Meena Harris, niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, has been rescheduled, according to an email sent to students Thursday afternoon from Founders Week Director Jenna Whitaker.

"Due to unforeseen circumstances, tonight's event Founders, KPU, in partnership with ARPC Present: Meena Harris, has been rescheduled," the email said. "While we know this is disappointing, we are looking forward to hosting this event in the future."

The email said AUSG will update the AU community with a new date and time for the event.

Feb. 22:

Entrepreneur and author Meena Harris, niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, will speak about institutional efforts to address racism and inequity at a virtual Founders Week event Thursday. 

The event, hosted by the Founders Week team, Kennedy Political Union and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center, will be moderated by ARPC Managing Director Christine Platt. Harris is the second of two major speakers for this year’s Founders Week, following a keynote discussion with voting rights activist Stacey Abrams on Monday. 

Harris is the author of two children’s books, “Ambitious Girl” and “Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea,” and is the founder and CEO of the lifestyle brand Phenomenal. KPU Director Amrutha Chatty said that Harris’ experiences addressing issues of race and inequity at other universities was a deciding factor in inviting her to speak. 

“We knew that she was an experienced speaker on these topics, but we also knew that she’s a really dynamic speaker right now,” Chatty said. “She’s one that a lot of us recognize. Her brand, Phenomenal, has really blown up recently, so we wanted to make sure we’re highlighting someone who has expertise and has spoken on these issues, but also is someone who our campus recognizes and is a relevant figure right now.”

The event is part of KPU’s Black History Month programming. 

In a press release sent to student media prior to the official announcement, the hosts of the event clarified they hoped that the event would address “the ways students can actively participate in antiracism work, promote equity for all, and acknowledge our own institution’s racist founding.”

Founders came under fire in 2018 for its choice of venue, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, when some students said the location was insensitive and disrespectful for a ball. Former Eagle Opinion Managing Editor Nickolaus Mack tied the event to AU founder John Fletcher Hurst, who inherited at least one enslaved person. 

The original Founders Balls celebrated Hurst without confronting his history of owning slaves, Mack wrote. AU later created a working group to explore the University’s founding and its ties to slavery. 

“I know a big concern for students, and one that Founders is acutely aware of, is a lot of AU’s history in its founding, and whether or not that’s something we should be celebrating,” Chatty said. “I think that the whole purpose of this event is to … address those concerns and have a conversation about how we can grapple with our founding as a University and still find a way to celebrate our values of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The Zoom event, which begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, will be free for all AU students. The link to the event will be provided upon registration. 

dpapscun@theeagleonline.com

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