By Christine Sharp
Cal Poly Pomona students, faculty and community members gathered in the University Theatre on Thursday evening to see Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and best-selling author Isabel Wilkerson speak as part of the Kellogg Distinguished Public Lecture Series.
Wilkerson discussed her New York Times bestselling book, “The Warmth of Other Suns.”
The book tells the story of three protagonists and their journeys of fleeing the American South in hopes of discovering the American Dream.
From 1915 to 1970, six million African-Americans resettled from the South, to the North and the West, during what came to be known as the Great Migration.
Wilkerson based her book on 15 years of research. She interviewed 1,200 people who participated in the Migration as well as examined census analysis and archival research.
“If this book were a human-being, it would actually be in high school and dating,” Wilkerson said jokingly.
During the lecture, Wilkerson discussed the importance of migration and how everybody, as diverse as America may be, had to make the step to migrate to the United States.
“[The book] is about the human desire and quest for freedom wherever it may take that person,” said Wilkerson. “It is really about the people in all of our backgrounds who had to have done what the people in this book did [migrate] just for us to be here, at this place, at this time, on this soil”many of us are the products of multiple streams of migration that never would have existed.”
An approximate 300 people attended the lecture to hear Wilkerson speak as she talked about how people can relate to the stories of the characters’ in her book by looking back at their own family’s history.
Christina Castillo, third year biology student, attended the lecture only to get extra credit for her history class. However, she was moved to the point that she cried during the lecture because she thought about the sacrifices her parents made migrating to America from Mexico.
“I was uneducated on a lot of these things,” said Castillo in regards to the issues discussed at the lecture, “I was inspired, and I never thought about buying the book, but I did. I bought it, and I plan on reading it tonight.”
Wilkerson named world famous singers, bands, and jazz artists that would never have lived if their families did not migrate.
“Where would music be?” said Wilkerson. “Where would culture be, and not just culture in this country. This is culture for the world”these people are as revered and beloved, in Amsterdam and in Paris and in Tokyo, as they are here in the United States”.
She explained how difficult the departure was for people during the migration, and that the importance of the move is highly overlooked as people left their homes, families and friends for the unknown.
“With them at that dock, as they are packing that trunk or on that railroad platform, are the people who raised them: their mother, their father, their grandparents, their aunts, their uncles, whoever might have raised them and could not make the crossing with them,” said Wilkerson. “At that moment of departure, there was no guarantee that either one, would ever see the other person alive again.”
Derek Eng / The Poly Post
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