Cal Poly Pomona’s First Year Experience Committee, with support from the Office of Inclusive Excellence and the University Library, will host the Common Read 2024 Keynote with Heather McGhee, author of the compelling book “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.”
The free Feb. 12 event, which includes a reception and book signing, will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Bronco Student Center, Ursa Major. The CPP community and public are invited to attend. Registration is required.
McGhee, a renowned advocate for social justice, gained recognition with her bestselling book, “The Sum of Us,” adapted into a podcast by Higher Ground in 2022. She has testified before Congress, drafted legislation, hosted a TED talk that’s reached 1 million views, and played a pivotal role in winning transformative changes for millions through her work at Demos, a movement-oriented think tank committed to racial justice.
In “The Sum of Us,” McGhee explores the pervasive impact of racism on the American economy, revealing it as the root cause behind various public issues. Through a personal journey from Mississippi to California, she highlights the consequences of embracing a zero-sum paradigm, where progress for some is seen as detrimental to others.
McGhee’s upcoming visit to Cal Poly Pomona marks the first in-person author visit for the Common Read program since 2018.
“I’m thrilled about the upcoming opportunity for our campus community to come together in person and engage with Heather McGhee,” said Cindy Pickett, presidential associate for inclusion and chief diversity officer. “Her impactful message, as conveyed in her book, resonates powerfully during her speaking engagements. This promises to be an unforgettable event, and I strongly encourage everyone to register early to secure their spot at her keynote address.”
Pickett added that the Common Read event with McGhee is set to take place in February during Black History Month—a time of reflection, remembrance, truth-telling, and healing.
“Black History Month provides opportunities for the campus to learn the history of Blacks. McGhee argues that a shared understanding of the truth is critical for us to move forward as a nation,” Pickett said.
The university’s Common Read is an initiative spearheaded by the Office of Student Success and the First Year Experience (FYE) Committee. The book chosen each year is often used by students enrolled in First Year Experience courses, but many from the CPP community have also joined in.
Each year, students have the opportunity to participate in the CPP Common Read writing contest. This year, students have the option to either write a personal reflection on key topics or a book review that focuses on how “The Sum of Us” impacted the student personally and thoughts surrounding the author’s key points. The deadline to submit for the writing contest is Jan. 5 at 11:59 p.m. Students can visit the writing contest website for more information.
Dora Lee, who oversees FYE as the director of Academic Support and Learning Services, said that the deadline for the essay contest has been extended to give students the opportunity to participate after finals.
“I hope students will participate in this year’s Common Read writing contest. Not only will the writing contest winners receive a nice award, but they will also be recognized by author Heather McGhee on February 12,” Lee said.
With the event scheduled for February, CPP students, faculty and staff have ample time during winter break to read the book.
“Heather McGhee’s message is particularly poignant for the diverse student body at Cal Poly Pomona. While we celebrate and honor our differences, it’s equally crucial for us to unite as a campus, embracing solidarity in pursuit of our shared ideals and goals,” Pickett said.
For more information and details, visit the Common Read website.