‘Radical Empathy’ author Terri Givens to speak at annual MLK celebration

A smiling woman with curly brown hair, silver earings and a beaded necklace
Terri Givens will be the featured speaker at the MLK celebration Feb. 21. (Provided photo)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 14, 2023) — Terri Givens, an author, professor and thought leader on anti-racism, will be the keynote speaker at UAlbany’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, in the Campus Center Ballroom. The event is free, but registration is requested.

Givens will speak about her latest book, Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides. Noting that structural racism has impacted the lives of African Americans in the United States since before the country’s founding, Givens proposes “radical empathy — moving beyond an understanding of others’ lives and pain to an understanding of the origins of our biases.”

Givens is a professor of political science at McGill University in Montreal. As a speaker, consultant and mentor, she uses her platform to develop leaders’ understanding of the importance of diversity, and to encourage personal growth through empathy.

She is the co-founder of the Center for Higher Education Leadership, which provides professional development and resources designed to help graduate students develop the skills they need to become faculty, and faculty the skills they need to become administrators. She also is the founder Brighter Professional Development, which offers workshops on Radical Empathy using a storytelling approach that allows workplaces to foster belonging and helps build and retain a diverse workforce.

“Bridging the divides that Dr. Givens speaks about in Radical Empathy begins with gaining a greater understanding of the history of structural and institutionalized racism and discriminatory practices, and how the persistence of inequity in everyday life manifests in systems — including higher education — that are still addressing how to do the difficult and necessary work to create greater equity and opportunities for all,” said Samuel Caldwell, UAlbany’s chief diversity officer and associate vice president for diversity and inclusion. “That work is being undertaken through our efforts to create more inclusive pedagogy and greater representation of historically underrepresented populations in our faculty and staff.”

Givens also wrote The Roots of Racism: The Politics of White Supremacy in the US and Europe, and the textbook Immigration in the 21st Century. She is a regular contributor to online journals and magazines.

As part of the MLK celebration, Givens will meet in the afternoon with an audience of students whose coursework includes Radical Empathy for an informal discussion on empathy and anti-racism. The evening program at 7 will begin with remarks from President Havidán Rodríguez.

A young boy, wearing a gray suit and cranberry-colored shoes, squats in concourse
Kayden Hern

Special guest Kayden Hern, a 9-year-old poet and fourth grader from Harlem, will recite one of his poems, “In my Mind.”

Kayden was the poet laureate for Gov. Hochul’s inauguration in January. His grandmother, Jacqueline Hern, said Kayden began writing poetry when he was 6, in part as a way to process Black Lives Matter protests that arose from the George Floyd killing by police, and being at home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “He began asking questions about what was going on at that time,” she said. “I told him to write down his thoughts and concerns, and we would share our notes. That’s how his poetry began.”

Kayden, who lives with his grandmother, father and sister, has five poems registered at the Library of Congress. His grandmother said he hopes that people hearing his poetry will develop a better understanding of how to treat others.

After her talk, Givens will take questions from the audience.

The MLK celebration has been held at UAlbany since the mid-1980s and was held virtually during the pandemic. The event is coordinated by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with support from the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Student Association, Honors College and the NYS Writers Institute.