Over the years, renaissance man and ‘Berg alumnus Pete Green, ’78, has enjoyed delving into his heritage, studying it and collecting examples such as book and magazine covers to illustrate the struggle of African Americans through history.
Today, on Heidelberg’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day ON!, Pete delivered an inspiring keynote address, kicking off a weeklong series of primarily virtual events designed to celebrate diversity, broaden our minds and further our campus community’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Pete’s “History through the Lens of race” is a nod to his photography avocation, his work in the bookstore/publication industry and his commitment understand the world and make it better. About 300 faculty, staff, students and alumni joined the keynote via Zoom.
Invoking the words of such giants as Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou and Dick Gregory, Pete walked us through his collections that demonstrate issues such as segregation. He shared very personal stories of his own experiences as well.
Through the years, Pete has been on a quest to find books “by and about me.” Where did he search? Not on bookshelves, but at flea markets and yard / rummage sales, his eye drawn to such keywords as Negro, Sundown Towns, racism and discrimination, race relations, black history, Jim Crow.
“Other people’s discards have become my treasures,” Pete explained. His research includes topics that “hit home.”
He has used his collection of the books as the lens reveal to a painful history. But for Pete, it’s been a necessary exploration – a journey of discovery and understanding. He also shared a number of stories about his own personal experiences with racism, and how he overcame them.
One of the poignant parts of his keynote was a series slides Pete shared that demonstrated segregation: “Colored Seated in Rear,” “Whites Only Telephone Booth,” “We Serve Whites Only,” “Public Swimming Pool Whites Only,” “Colored Served in Rear.”
Here is the essence of Pete’s journey and his message today: “Any group of people without a knowledge of themselves is like a tree without roots,” Pete quoted comedian and social active Dick Gregory as stating.
When you look at race through the lens of history, through publications and through history, “You have to listen, observe and be open to change. Think beyond the scope of the matchbox to the crate box. Give young people the tools and support they need to be successful to think outside the box and counter some of the evils they face in today’s society,” Pete concluded.
Since his graduation in 1978, Pete has stayed closely involved with Heidelberg, visiting annually from his New Jersey home. “Heidelberg is who I am,” he said. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d go to Heidelberg. It’s where I first started to grow into the person I am today.”
Today’s keynote presentation kicked off with a stirring rendition of “Lift Every Voice,” performed by students Elayna Brock, Alex Carter and Ayanna Hayes.