Roots of Knowledge final fall speaker

Alexis Palmer wrapped up the Roots of Knowledge Fall 2021 Speaker Series with a presentation about women who have fought for gender equity. Graphic by Ivette Pimentel.

The final speaker of the Roots of Knowledge speaker series event was dean of students, Alexis Palmer. Her presentation was titled “Breaking Barriers: Transferring knowledge from the future generation to the current generation” in honor of the RoK’s fifth anniversary.

Palmer started on the far side of the gallery with column Z: Hope for Humanity. The “hope for humanity” comes at the end of the RoK display. According to the RoK virtual tour, “Tree of Hope for Humanity symbolizes the transfer of knowledge and wisdom to the subsequent generations, who will carry with them the light to illuminate the world in the future.” 

Palmer spoke about three women in history that have fought for the opportunities that women have now: Mary Wollstonecraft, Betsy Coleman, Mary Mcleod Bethune. She then went on to talk about three women that are fighting for women now: Sarah Deer, Ava Duvernay, and Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Won-Kalu. 

Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights in the 18th century, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Palmer talked about Wollstonecraft’s work throughout her life and how public opinion on that work has changed over time. 

“Women and men should be educated equally,” said Palmer, quoting Wollstonecraft. “[Wollstonecraft] used her platform to change society.” Palmer said that when Wollstonecraft died, people in power used her name as a slur and critized her work-now she is an important part of feminism. 

Betsy Coleman, also known as Bessie, was an early American civil aviator and the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot license, according to the National Women’s History Museum. Palmer talked about Coleman’s impact and influence in feminism, noting when Coleman was asked to participate in films that depicted women negatively she denied the opportunity in an attempt to uplift women. 

Mary Mcleod Bethune was an American educator, philanthropist, humanitarian, womanist, and civil rights activist, according to the National Women’s History Museum. Palmer remarked how after women gained voting rights in 1920, Mcleod Bethune led voter registration drives. In her speech, Palmer stated that Mcleod Bethune became the highest ranking African American woman in government. 

Sarah Deer is a Native American lawyer and professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies and Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas. Deer is working on research that is “ahead of our time,” according to Palmer, who believes her work will be seminal for future generations. 

Ava Duvernay is an American filmmaker who won the directing award in the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her second feature film, “Middle of Nowhere.” She became the first black woman to win the award, according to avaduvernay.com

“She reminds me of Bessie,” said Palmer. Quoting Duvernay, Palmer said, “Say something if you are going to do the arts.”

Hinaleimoana Kwai Kong Won-Kalu was the last person that Palmer mentioned in her presentation. According to Leiculture Kwai Kong Won-Kalu is a cultural advocate, transgender woman, and director of Culture at Hawaiian values-based public charter school Halau Lokahi. 

To see the recording of this presentation and previous speakers, visit the Roots of Knowledge website.

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