Violence-Prevention Activists Rhonda Foster ’82 and Ruett Foster ’81 and Writer Jamilah King ’07
Claremont, Calif. (April 15, 2015)—Pitzer College names violence-prevention activists Rhonda Foster ’82 and Ruett Foster ’81 its 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award honorees, and writer and editor Jamilah King ’07 as its Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient. The Fosters and King will be honored during Pitzer’s Alumni Weekend on May 1-3, 2015.
Rhonda Foster ’82 and Ruett Foster ’81: 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award Honorees
Rhonda and Ruett Foster have devoted their lives to violence prevention. In 1997, their 7-year-old son, Evan, was killed by errant bullets when he was sitting in their car at a park in Inglewood, CA. In the aftermath of the gang-related shooting, the Fosters appealed to the perpetrators to choose peace over violence and to the community to choose love over retaliation. For more than 17 years, the Fosters have continued this mission, working with juvenile offenders and community members to save young lives.
After Evan’s death, the Fosters created a foundation in his name and began reaching out to incarcerated youth in detention centers and juvenile facilities throughout California. The Fosters speak around the country about addressing the root causes of violence and work with faith and civic groups as well as police departments to bolster gang prevention and youth development programs. At Pitzer, recipients of the Marilyn Chapin Massey Endowed Scholarship are referred to as “Evan Foster Scholars” in honor of the Fosters’ late son.
Ruett Foster is the senior pastor of the Community Bible Church of Culver City, which partners with local police to provide empowerment programs for first-time youth offenders. Rhonda Foster works with the nonprofit Community Build, Inc. as a case manager in gang prevention for the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development program. She is also on the board of Women Against Gun Violence.
Pitzer College’s Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor the College bestows upon a graduate. It recognizes alumni whose achievements reflect Pitzer’s core values, which include social responsibility and intercultural understanding.
“They have lived their lives, day in and day out, exemplifying paramount Pitzer values—building community, offering service and being a force for change,” said Pitzer Professor Emerita of Sociology Ann Stromberg, who, along with Professor of Anthropology Sheryl Miller, nominated the Fosters for the DAA award.
“I am tremendously honored to have been recognized by my Pitzer College family in this manner and to have been nominated by two of my former professors who made an indelible mark of love upon my heart,” Rhonda Foster said.
Ruett Foster described his time at Pitzer as a pivotal life experience.
“I firmly believe that the multiplicity of diverse human experiences I encountered at Pitzer, coupled with a stellar education, were the agents that helped to form me into the person I am today,” he said. “I am deeply humbled and honored to be recognized by Pitzer College for my work in violence prevention and restorative justice.”
The Fosters’ work has been honored by many organizations. KCET and Union Bank named them 2011 Local Heroes and they received the inaugural Changing Lives Award from the inmates of the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in 2007. The Central City Association of Los Angeles dubbed them 2003 Treasures of Los Angeles and they received the 2001 Humanitarian Award from the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility. They were chosen as Inspirational Torch Bearers for the 2002 Winter Olympics.
“There can be no greater models of social responsibility than these two outstanding Pitzer graduates,” Professor Miller said. “They make the world a better place.”
Rhonda Foster majored in psychology and Ruett Foster majored in dance at Pitzer College. This is the first year the Distinguished Alumni Award has been given simultaneously to two alumni. The winners were selected by a committee made up of alumni, faculty, staff, students and Alumni Board President Tracy Tindle ’82.
Jamilah King ’07: Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree
Since graduating from Pitzer in 2007, Jamilah King has been writing illuminating, in-depth articles and essays about the intersection of race, class and gender. As a writer and editor, she has explored issues ranging from the #blacklivesmatter movement to the digital divide to New York City’s stop-and-frisk program. In 2013, Ebony magazine named her one of the most dynamic editors working in new media.
King’s resumé reflects a writer who uses her way with words to create a more just society. She writes for the digital news and lifestyle magazine TakePart, a division of Participant Media, which produced the documentaries An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting For “Superman” and Food, Inc. As a senior editor at Colorlines, a daily news site devoted to examining racial justice issues, King managed breaking news assignments while covering urban politics and youth culture. She served as an associate editor at WireTap, a digital magazine produced by a nonprofit dedicated to advancing social justice and civil rights. King’s work has been featured in Salon, The Nation, San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Advocate and Al Jazeera America, and she has appeared on National Public Radio, MSNBC and WNYC.
King said her career has been indelibly shaped by her relationships with Pitzer students, staff and faculty, including Professors Laura Harris, Dipa Basu and Sumangala Bhattacharya.
“I chose Pitzer because it was committed to truth and justice, which are two values that I hold dear in every aspect of my work, and I’m honored to share this award with a community of people who have helped me thrive,” she said.
King’s own commitment to truth and justice extends into her work in the community. She’s served on the steering committee for the Queer Women of Color Film Festival and is a board member of Women, Action and the Media. She speaks regularly on social justice issues at conferences across the country.
During her time at Pitzer College, King was active in the Black Student Union and Pan-African Students Association, and served as a resident assistant in Mead Hall for three years. She majored in English and world literature and Black studies.
The Pitzer College Alumni Association introduced the Young Alumni Achievement Award in 2013 to recognize alumni under the age of 35 who graduated in the past decade and have established careers that exemplify a Pitzer education in action.