KENNETT SQUARE—Diversity is transforming education in a way that would have made Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the father of the civil rights movement, proud.
That was the message of Dr. Brenda A. Allen, president of Lincoln University, delivered to hundreds of people gathered at the 18th annual MLK CommUNITY breakfast Monday in Kennett Square.
“Diversity brings more lively discussions to the classrooms,” Allen said. “People are pushed t think more deeply about concepts when diverse opinions come into the discussion. The examples are endless. Suffice to say the presence of women and minorities in diverse groups is making a difference.”
Allen served as associate provost and director of institutional diversity at Brown University before moving to Winston-Salem State University. She was credited with helping to raise nearly $15 million to support diversity goals, and led efforts that culminated in 36 percent and 45 percent increase in the number of women and minority faculty members.
Allen said that as a student at Lincoln University, she experienced racial hatred, but when she arrived at Brown University, she experienced diversity and a new world opened up to her. She said she never had a close friend that was not African American until she arrived on the campus of Smith College.
“Prior to challenges of affirmative action, we often thought that opening higher education to women and minorities was some sort of gift, some way to help these poor souls along,” she said. “What we now know is the experience of people who have traditionally been left out of the discussion helps to expand and reform the educational process in many ways.”
Allen said the world would be a better place if people would abide by Dr. King’s advice that people should be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
“To be judged by the content of my character, as Dr. King wished, requires that you know me past the visual characteristics,” she said. “And to learn and know the humanity in me. As I have returned to this community, I bring a different heart and an open mind.”
The students at Lincoln University are in a much better place than when she attended school, Allen said.
“As I have conversations with the campus community, I see and fell the barriers of race dissipate,” she said. “For me, this is what living DR. King’s dream is all about.”
School was not in session Monday for the MLK holiday, but students at many local schools spent the day volunteering service to give back to the community in a way of honoring Dr. King’s legacy.
At the breakfast, many brought food for the Kennett Food Cupboard. Following the breakfast, there was a community-wide food drive for the Kennett Food Cupboard.
County commissioners, state lawmakers and municipal officials attended the event.