Award-Winning Writer and Activist Sikivu Hutchinson to Deliver Pitzer College Keynote Commencement Address for Class of 2020

Sikivu Hutchinson

Claremont, Calif. (April 27, 2022)—Pitzer College’s Class of 2020 has selected Sikivu Hutchinson, an award-winning writer, activist, educator, and director, to deliver the keynote address at the Class of 2020 Commencement ceremony. The in-person ceremony, which was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, will take place at Pitzer’s Stephen L. Glass Commencement Plaza on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at 10 a.m.

Hutchinson is the author of the novel and play, Rock ‘n’ Roll Heretic: The Life and Times of Rory Tharpe (2021). Her other works include Humanists in the Hood: Unapologetically Black, Feminist, and Heretical (2020), White Nights, Black Paradise (2015), Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars (2011), and Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles (2003). Hutchinson’s scholarship has been published in numerous journals and edited volumes, including the Oxford Handbook of SecularismJournal of Religious Ethics, and International Journal of Learning.

In 2013, Hutchinson was named Secular Woman of the Year, and in 2020, she received Harvard University’s Humanist of the Year award. Hutchinson is also the founding leader of Black Skeptics Los Angeles and the Women’s Leadership Project Black feminist mentoring program for young women of color in South LA. In 2019, she co-founded LA’s only Black LGBTQI+ parent and caregiver group, which provides support and advocacy for Black families of queer youth.

An adjunct professor at Pitzer, Hutchinson is teaching a course on African American humanism at Pitzer this spring—the first of its kind in the US, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The course description notes: “Despite strong traditions of religiosity in African American communities, Black secular humanist, freethought and atheist views have always coexisted with Black faith. Historically, Black humanists have grounded their beliefs in an anti-racist social justice critique that was distinct from that of European American secular humanists.”

Hutchinson has also taught women’s studies, urban studies, cultural studies, secular studies, and education at Western Washington University, California Institute of the Arts, California State University, Los Angeles, and University of California, Los Angeles. Hutchinson received her PhD in performance studies from New York University and was a visiting scholar at USC’s Center for Feminist Research.

At Pitzer, it is an annual tradition for the graduating class to select their commencement speaker. The Class of 2020 has also chosen their senior class speakers, Amanda Martin-Lawrence ’20 and Jan Patrice Bragado ’20, and their honored guest, Dan Hirsch, former dean of campus life at Pitzer and current director of organizational learning and development at Claremont McKenna College. The student marshals will be Associate Professor of Organizational Studies Barbara Junisbai and Professor of Sociology and Secular Studies Phil Zuckerman. The faculty marshals will be Assistant Professor of Psychology Darin R. Brown and Muriel Poston, who has served as both dean of faculty and professor of environmental analysis at Pitzer and is now vice president of strategic initiatives at Claremont McKenna.

For more information about Pitzer’s Class of 2020 graduation ceremony, please visit the College’s Commencement page for the Class of 2020.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit

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