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“The Sum of Us” Author Heather McGhee PPI 2023 Spring Symposium Keynote Speaker Address


Heather McGhee—author of the New York Times bestseller “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together”—will be delivering the keynote address at the Santa Monica College (SMC) Public Policy Institute (PPI) 2023 Spring Symposium on Thursday, May 18, from 7:30 – 9 p.m. at John Adams Middle School (JAMS) Performing Arts Center, 1630 Pearl Street, Santa Monica.

The free, public event is co-sponsored by SMC Associated StudentsCity of Santa Monica, and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). Additionally, the Santa Monica Public Library invites the community to read and discuss “The Sum of Us” as part of the Santa Monica Reads program. More information is available at smpl.org. Free copies of the book, while supplies last, are available to those planning to participate in program beginning May 1. Versions of the book for adults as well as the young readers are available.

Described by #1 NYT bestselling author of “How to Be an Antiracist” Ibram X. Kendi as “. . . the book I’ve been waiting for,” “The Sum of Us” (Penguin Random House) offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: racism has a cost for everyone—not just for people of color. Among accolades received, “The Sum of Us” has been longlisted for the National Book Award and the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, and voted one of the Best Books of the Year by TimeThe Washington PostSt. Louis Post-DispatchMs. Magazine, BookRiot, and Library Journal.

SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery stated that the scale of the community collaboration behind bringing Ms. McGhee to Santa Monica College—and Santa Monica—showcases the “willingness and unified intent of this community to grapple with the ongoing questions plaguing us as a society and nation.” “I am tremendously grateful for our partners who, like all of us at SMC, care deeply about building a more equitable, harmonious and respectful world,” she said.

“The Santa Monica City Council recently unanimously adopted Racial Justice, Equity & Social Diversity as a community priority,” said Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis. “Whether participating in our Library’s events or joining Heather McGhee’s discussion, understanding our history and the effects of racism is a necessary part of our ongoing efforts to ensure everyone in Santa Monica can thrive.”

“Ms. McGhee’s book was, and continues to be informative and meaningful to our work as school leaders trying to disrupt a system rooted in practices that does not serve all students well,” said SMMUSD Interim Superintendent Dr. Mark Kelly.

Ms. McGhee is a Visiting Lecturer in Urban Studies at the City University of New York’s School of Labor and Urban Studies. She is a strong coalition-builder and trusted cross-movement leader who serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of Color Of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. Ms. McGhee also serves on the boards of the Rockefeller Brothers FundOpen Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs, and the nonpartisan “think and do” tank Demos. She is also an NBC News contributor, frequently appearing on “Meet the Press” and MSNBC programming, and her writing and research have appeared in numerous publications. She has also held visiting positions at Yale University’s Brady-Johnson Grand Strategy Program and the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. To learn more about her, visit heathermcghee.com(opens in new window).

In addition to Ms. McGhee’s keynote address, the Santa Monica College Public Policy Institute (PPI) 2023 Spring Symposium—which runs May 15-19, 2023—will feature a number of events around the theme “From Me to We: Building Cross-racial Solidarity for a Better Democracy.” Symposium activities will feature an opening talk by Prof. Ian Haney López, a screening of Derrick Bell’s science fiction story “The Space Traders” with a panel discussion and audience Q&A, and a student panel discussion on race, class, and solidarity. More details on additional symposium activities are forthcoming via a separate press release.

Accommodation for Disability: Guests who need an accommodation due to a disability to participate in any of these events should send email to [email protected] or call 310-434-4173, at least 5 business days in advance.