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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Rev. Al Sharpton visits College, meets with students and addresses campus

<ay, civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton spoke at the Chapel, making Carleton the first stop on his tour to college campuses throughout the country. CSA President Walter Paul ’18 introduced Rev. Sharpton, who delivered a speech and answered questions about social activism from the Civil Rights Era to the present day.

“It was a pleasure to meet with the students of Carleton College Tuesday to discuss voting rights, gun control, and the pressing issues facing our youth today as part of our NAN Collegiate Tour,” said National Action Network (NAN) Founder and President Rev. Al Sharpton. “The struggle for justice in our country crosses generations, and some of the greatest civil rights organizations in United States history started on college campuses like Carleton. We at NAN have a duty to both educate and inspire the next generation to take up the mantle and fight for the causes they believe in.”

According to posters around campus, the Division of Student Life sponsored the event in conjunction with NAN, Rev. Sharpton’s civil rights organization. Paul added that Carleton is the only non-historically black college and university (HBCU) on Rev. Sharpton’s college tour, and credits two alumni network connections with bringing Sharpton to campus.

Carleton alumnus Michael Hardy ’77, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the National Action Network, confirmed to the Carletonian that he co-founded the civil rights organization with Rev. Sharpton.

“As a young law student and then-lawyer in NYC, I was very involved in the social justice movement and met Rev. Al Sharpton during the Howard Beach case in 1986,” Hardy told the Carletonian in an email. “We started working together and been working together ever since, including founding and building NAN in 1991. Our paths have always crossed with Carleton, as in 1993 when Katherine Manegold, another 1977 Carleton graduate, was assigned by the New York Times to write the magazine article on Rev. Sharpton.”

“Then in April 2017, while I was interviewing candidates for an organizing position within NAN, I met and interviewed the most engaging and intelligent young person, who I learned was a Carleton graduate,” Hardy continued. “She has been a tremendous new asset to our team. So, Carleton has a proud and long legacy with Rev. Sharpton and the movement for a more just America, and a more perfect union.”
NAN National Organizer Isabel Zeitz-Moskin ’15 corroborated Hardy’s account. “In my search for civil rights/social justice focused jobs last year after working on the election, I found Michael Hardy in Carleton’s alumni network, which eventually led to my position at NAN,” Zeitz-Moskin told the Carletonian in an email.

“NAN’s Collegiate Tour was somewhat collaborative but mostly initiated by Rev. Sharpton,” Zeitz-Moskin continued. “[Rev. Sharpton] wanted to increase his efforts to lift up youth leaders in the movement. Rev. Sharpton truly believes that students and young people should be the leaders in any social justice movement and colleges are a great place to lead that effort. Carleton was a natural choice for a stop on the tour because of my own and Michael Hardy’s ties to the college. We both know it to be a politically conscious place and thought that students there would be receptive to NAN and its message and values. We may add other non-HBCUs to the tour but we wanted to start with places where we had strong connections to the student body. Overall, it was a great visit. Rev. Sharpton really enjoyed the questions and even talked about the visit on his radio show the following day.”

“I was happy with how the event went,” said Paul. “[Rev. Sharpton] critically engaged with students. That’s what we want from speakers of, above, and below his stature. I’m looking forward to more speakers that can critically engage with Carleton students, including those that would disagree with them.”

According to Black Student Alliance (BSA) President Aislinn Mayfield ’19, Rev. Sharpton held a smaller gathering for BSA members in Stimson House before he spoke in the Chapel.

BSA Treasurer Jorge Banuelos ’20 explained that the gathering in Stimson “was an open Q&A discussion where we were able to ask him any questions that came to mind. The benefit of this type of session was to hear his thoughts and experiences directly from him. He’s a wildly controversial figure and a lot of folk love to put words in his mouth or misquote him. Therefore, it was very productive to hear directly from him what he thinks on a number of hot topics, ranging from his 2016 election analysis to his sentiments towards #BlackLivesMatter.”

“I argue that progress is only made when those who are fighting to establish progress are more determined than those who are fighting against it,” Rev. Sharpton said to the audience in the Chapel.

“Youthfulness is a circumstance, not an achievement.  You didn’t achieve being young, you were just born last.  But you can use your youth to be part of something bigger than you that can define you and your purpose in life, but it must be goal-driven and not just personally driven.”

Writer Sid Hirshberg ’21 contributed reporting for this story.

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