by Lindsay Lowry
History of The Sojourner Truth Lecture
Each year at Mason, Women and Gender Studies and African and African American Studies co-sponsor the Sojourner Truth Lecture Series during the spring in honor of Black History and Women’s History months. In the past, our speakers have included Ntosake Shange, Donna Brazile, bell hooks, Anita Hill, Patricia Hill Collins, Dorothy Roberts, Nekima Levy-Pounds, Janet Mock, and other notable women. We have designed the Sojourner Truth lecture to be a rich and varied experience and thus we construct the speaker's visit around the lecture and include smaller events, such as a seminar with students or a conversation among women across racial/ethnic backgrounds.
2023 Sojourner Truth Lecture
This year's lecturer and the award recipient is Dr. Kakenya’s Ntaiya.
Kakenya's Dream Founder and President, Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, is a world-renowned educator and advocate for girls' health and human rights. She has dedicated her life to creating lasting change both in rural communities in Kenya and across Africa. After escaping child marriage and surviving female genital mutilation (FGM) as a young teenager, Dr. Ntaiya became the first woman from her Maasai village in Kenya to attend university in the United States. In 2009, while studying for her PhD in education at the University of Pittsburgh, she founded Kakenya’s Dream to empower vulnerable girls through education, health, and leadership programs to become agents of change. Dr. Ntaiya was featured in Bill Gates’ Heroes in the Field series in 2022 and Melinda French Gates’ first book, The Moment of Lift. She has been named a Top Ten CNN Hero, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Shake the World.”
Dr. Ntaiya’s lecture began with an explanation of how and why she founded Kakenya’s Dream. She explained to the eager crowd the importance of educating a whole community through the workshops because, without the support of boys, men, and elders, the girls seeking education will always be held back. Dr. LaNitra Berger, the Director of African & African American Studies and an Associate Professor of Art & Art History, facilitated further conversations with the audience. When answering a question about how to handle the pressure of solving societal issues that will not be resolved in an activist’s lifetime, Dr. Ntaiya answered with a quote that sums up her impact on the world, “I have started something that will not stop.”
Recommendations from Dr. Ntaiya:
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Fiction novels by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
March 08, 2023