Claremont, Calif. (April 27, 2016)— Following Pitzer College tradition, the graduating Class of 2016 has selected Patrisse Cullors, a renowned social activist, artist and co-creator of the Twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, as the College’s commencement keynote speaker.
Recognized as a “new civil rights leader for the 21st century” by the Los Angeles Times, Cullors is an established community leader and performance artist, who raises awareness to issues—specifically law enforcement accountability—through a blend of activism and art. Inspired to action by the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Cullors created the Twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi to prompt activism nationwide. In 2011, she developed STAINED: An Intimate Portrayal of State Violence, a traveling art piece exposing the realities of her incarcerated brother’s abuse by law enforcement. Her awareness efforts led her to establish Dignity and Power Now, a LA-based grassroots organization that fights for incarcerated people, their families and communities. As the truth and reinvestment campaign director for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Cullors works to build response capacity of communities affected by state and law enforcement violence.
Julia Finkelstein ’16, a media studies major, was chosen by the graduates as their senior class speaker.
The Class of 2016 also selected Professors Roberta Espinoza and Brinda Sarathy as its student marshals and maintenance staff member Dominic Salcido to be its honored guest. Professors Halford Fairchild and Judith Grabiner will serve as faculty marshals.
Interim President Thomas Poon will give the opening remarks. Elizabeth Krawczak ’16 and Allisyn Ruttle ’16 will present the senior gift and Alumni Board President Brian Christiansen ’93 will give the alumni greeting. Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Nigel Boyle will present the graduating class. President Poon will join Shahan Soghikian ’80, chair of the Board of Trustees, and Registrar Eva Peters to present diplomas to the Class of 2016.