By Keely Coxwell
“I want to talk about intersectional activism in light of a disastrous opportunity that makes us rise up,” Rev. Irene Monroe said in a Swope lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.
Monroe is, among other things, an activist pastor, blogger for the Huffington Post, radio show host and television commentator, according to the University of Puget Sound website. She also has a number of awards including the 2015 Top 25 LGBT Power Players of New England Award from Boston Spirit Magazine and the 2012 Spirit of Justice Award from GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders).
Monroe spoke at the University last spring for a Brown Bag Lunch and Wright spoke of her “energy, warmth, dynamism, spirit and depth.”
Wright first met Monroe when she spoke at Seattle University about designating Stonewall as a national monument.
“As a teenage she was at Stonewall,” Wright said. “She was too young to be at the bar … but there were a number of young gay men from her church who were there. When the riots began breaking out she and a lot of the church went down to rescue them from the violence with the police and everything else.”
After speaking at Seattle University, Monroe had lunch at Puget Sound with a few faculty members and students, but that was not her first time on the campus.
“She was first on this campus in 1982 with a group of Methodists advocating for queer inclusion in the Methodist church,” Wright said.
Monroe speaks around the country trying to advocate for intersectionality and that was the theme of her talk here.
“She is putting herself into this,” Wright said. “She is going to be here for two full days; she’ll be speaking into two classes. She’s doing a lunch and dinner with a group of student leaders and doing a podcast interview with the communications folks for the website.”
During the lecture Monroe had on a wireless micro phone so she could interact with the audience directly.
“How are you white and how white are you?” Monroe asked the audience. Monroe side that asking yourself this question will result in a rich knowledge of self which is a part of the university’s mission statement.
In light of recent events people have asked what do we do next.
“We will fight until hell freezes over and then we’ll fight on the ice,” Monroe said. “You change what you can and what you can do is change yourself and the members of your family.”
“In recent years we have tried to focus on voices from minoritized religious communities or less visible religious communities as well as those who are speaking from other underrepresented or marginalized lenses,” Dave Wright, University Chaplain and Swope Lecture Committee Chair said. “[K]nowing that we don’t always have those kinds of voices represented on campus.”
The Swope lecture series are an endowed lecture series that the University hosts. There is, generally, a lecture in the fall and then one in the Spring.
According to the University website the lecture series was “established through a gift from Major Ianthe Swope in honor of her mother, Jane Hammer Swope.”
“Their request was to bring speakers and voices to campus to engage in issues of faith ethics values and religion particularly as they relate to culture and society,” Wright, said.
“[The speakers] are chosen by the committee,” Wright said. “the committee is comprised by usually 4 or 5 faculty and 3 students.”
According the the website the committee is currently made up by: Lisa Ferrari, Rachel DeMotts, Stuart Smithers, Kristin Johnson, Jae Bates ’18, Becca Brazell ’17 and Kristina Sinks ’19.
“We meet two to five times a year … to find speakers that bring, different, challenging, less-visible perspectives to campus around those themes that the endowment has given to us,” Wright said.
“We try to work about a year and a half out because some of the speakers we bring have that kind of a timeline which makes it tricky to line up speakers with contemporary issues,” Wright said.
“No one planned on having [Monroe] here a few weeks into a presidency that has resulted in millions of Americans having a very challenging time with identity, race, gender and sexuality right now,” Wright said. “She wants people who are working in social change to recognize that we are all in this together. She is one of the right people to capture a spirit of moving forward.”
“This is sort of like church,” Monroe said. “If you leave the same way you came in, I’ve done something wrong.”
The Swope Lecture Committee is open to suggestions for future lecturers. Please contact Dave Wright or any member of the committee to submit a recommendation.