Campus Community / Society / Justice and Law

"The Urgency of Now"

Written by Mike Thee

January 11, 2019

Laura Emiko Soltis

Featured speaker at SU’s MLK Celebration will address immigration crisis

A leading champion for undocumented students is the featured speaker for Seattle University’s 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration (6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 22, Campion Ballroom).

Laura Emiko Soltis, PhD, is executive director of Freedom University (FU), a modern-day freedom school based in Atlanta that provides rigorous college preparation classes, college and scholarship application assistance, and leadership development for undocumented students in Georgia. (Freedom schools originated during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s as alternative, free schools to educate and empower African Americans.) 

An experienced social movement strategist and prolific scholar, Soltis works to advance the undocumented student movement by building bridges between undocumented and documented student groups, advocating for fair admissions policies and sanctuary policies in higher education and cultivating intergenerational relationships between undocumented students and veterans of the Black Freedom Movement. She continues to serve as the Professor of Human Rights at FU, teaching classes in international human rights, social movement theory and immigration history. 

“Immigration and Migration” is the theme of this year’s MLK Celebration, which is presented by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) in association with Moral Mondays at SU, the university’s #BlackLivesMatter initiative. 

Tyrone Brown, assistant director of OMA, says he heard Soltis speak at an event in 2017. “Her speech highlighted the ‘urgency of now’ in relation to immigration and migration and the need for different narratives as it relates to what has become a humanitarian and human rights issue,” he says. “There is a concerted effort by OMA to highlight the radical side of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy. The tendency has been to whitewash and sanitize what he stood and stands for. Dr. Soltis will help to connect Dr. King’s legacy to the contemporary reality of injustice challenge us to question our government and leaders whose actions go against the values we say we stand for as a democracy.” 

This year’s theme mirrors the heightened relevance of immigration issues in recent years, nationally and particularly on college campuses. Here at Seattle U, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., has consistently spoken out in support of the rights of immigrants as well as undocumented students, dating back to a 2010 Los Angeles Times op-ed he penned in support of the DREAM Act and in statements he’s made over the past two years. 

SU’s MLK Celebration is free and open to the campus community and general public. OMA encourages you to RSVP at Questions? Contact Tyrone Brown at (206) 296-6074. A poster for the event can be found at MLK2019 Poster.pdf.