Whittier College News Release

Whittier College
Office of Public Relations
13406 Philadelphia St.
P.O. Box 634
Whittier, CA 90608-0634


Media Contact: 562.907.4974 or


WHITTIER, CA (March 1, 2005)—Pentecostal minister, political candidate, and civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton will give the keynote address for Whittier College’s Diverse Identities Week—a program exploring racial and cultural differences. Sharpton will speak on Tuesday, March 15, at 7:00 p.m. in the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts, located on the Whittier College campus. General admission is $5.00, and reservations can be made by calling the Shannon Center Box Office at 562.907.4203.

The always-spellbinding, often-controversial Rev. Al Sharpton has been a committed and energetic figure in the civil rights movement—particularly within the African American community—for over three decades. While his supporters view him as a charismatic and passionate spokesman, his critics contend that his methods and speech are racially divisive and, in fact, destructive to the cause of black civil rights.

A preacher at four and ordained in the Pentecostal faith by the age of nine, Sharpton learned early on how to successfully move people to action, a skill that earned him positions of considerable responsibility and recognition. At 14 years of age, he was named youth director of the New York branch of Operation Breadbasket, organized by activist Jesse Jackson, which distributed food in poor black communities. At 15, Sharpton founded National Youth Movement, an organization devoted to the problems of black urban youth which he led for nearly two decades; during this time, he also worked as tour manager for legendary soul singer James Brown and as a youth organizer for boxing promoter Don King.

But it was in the 1980s when Sharpton truly gained celebrity status through his involvement in a series of high profile, racially charged court cases, including the Bernard Goetz, Howard Beach, and Amadou Diallo trials, during which he organized and led protests and other acts of civil disobedience under the watchful eye of the news media. Building on this newfound notoriety—and continuing in his commitment to promote widespread activism—Sharpton established the National Action Network (NAN) in 1991, an organization dedicated to providing voter education, services aiding the poor, and support of economically small community businesses, as well as confronting racism and violations of civil and human rights. To this day, Sharpton remains NAN’s president and CEO, leading weekly meetings in its Harlem headquarters and hosting a weekly radio show, “Sharp Talk.”

In addition to his activist work, Sharpton is the author of two books and has run for a variety of political offices including New York State Senate, the U.S. Senate, New York City mayor, and, in 2004, the U.S. presidency.

In addition to Sharpton, the Diverse Identities Week program will feature a lecture by Dr. Lester Spence, who will present “Ride or Die: Hip Hop, Culture, and Politics,” on Monday, March 14, at 7:00 p.m. in The Club, also located on the Whittier College campus.

The purpose of Whittier College’s annual Diverse Identities Week is to create awareness and educate the student body about diversity and tolerance through interactive and thought- provoking programming. Its goal is to take a stand against discrimination by breaking barriers and becoming proactive about learning and appreciating racial, cultural, religious, ability, and gender differences.

Founded by Quakers in 1887, Whittier College is an independent, four-year college offering a traditional liberal arts program integrated with both professional and pre-professional courses of study. With an emphasis on diversity, community, and curricular innovation, the College’s primary mission is to endow students with the education, skills, and values appropriate for global leadership and service.

Whittier Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools, is located on a separate campus in Orange County.

Whittier College Office of Communications
13406 Philadelphia » P.O. Box 634 » Whittier, CA 90608-0634
Tel: (562) 907-4213 » Fax: (562) 907-4927