Nikole Hannah-Jones headlines CRC’s inaugural MLK Day event

Hannah-Jones is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the creator of “The 1619 Project”

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones discussed truth, history and “The 1619 Project” at Cosumnes River College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Signature Event on Jan. 26, 2022. (Screenshot by Jahson Nahal)

Jahson Nahal, Sports Editor

Cosumnes River College hosted its inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Day Signature Event on Jan. 26, which discussed the importance of truth, history and “The 1619 Project.”

The event featured speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the New York Times, who covers racial injustice and is the creator of “The 1619 project.” 

“The 1619 Project,” is the New York Times’ award-winning reframing of American history which places the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the center of our national narrative. 

When asked about what influenced her to create “The 1619 Project,” Hannah-Jones said that most Americans didn’t know the year 1619 and when the 400th anniversary was approaching she decided to use her platform at Times to show the importance.

“That’s when I got the idea to pitch an entire project that would, through a series of essays, really argue that so much of modern American life in ways we don’t think about, in ways we don’t acknowledge, has been shaped by the legacy of slavery,” Hannah-Jones said during the event.

Hannah-Jones added how “The 1619 Project” contains essays by more than a dozen historians and before every chapter there are pieces of poetry or short fiction produced by some of the greatest writers in America.

Nikole Hannah-Jones also co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a national organization that works to increase the number of reporters and editors of color in newsrooms. (Photo courtesy of the LRCCD)

“They are such a powerful and beautiful part of the book, I think particularly for students,” Hannah-Jones said. “It gives a more creative way of thinking about the past.”

Hannah-Jones also co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting which is a national organization that works to increase the number of reporters and editors of color. 

When asked about the launch of the society, Hannah-Jones said it was hard for her to become an investigative reporter because journalism reflects the same hierarchies that the rest of society does.

“We’re less likely as journalists of color to get the opportunities to do investigative reporting,” Hannah-Jones said. “Even though no one is more vulnerable in our society than people of color and we need to be in those positions.”

Claire Oliveros, vice president of institutional equity, research and planning at CRC, says that hosting Hannah-Jones was a wonderful opportunity to introduce people to her who may not know her as well as the topics related to truth, history and “The 1619 Project.”

“It was accessible in a way in which I don’t think we would’ve been able to do it in person,” Oliveros said. “Having it virtual and free was, I think, an important service to do for our college and for our district.”

Oliveros added the Division of Institutional Equity, Research and Planning would love to do an event like this again.

“We want to continue this tradition and we would be looking to seek input from our college community for potential speakers,” Oliveros said.