‘I don’t even have words:’ Civil rights activist Anita Hill receives Drum Major for Justice Award 

“Receiving this award just in recognition of the work that I’ve done at the same time celebrating this anniversary, it’s just remarkable. I don’t even have words for it,” Hill said on the night of Feb. 24, 2024. Photo Courtesy of Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for DVF Awards.

By Deidre Montague

Boston University News Service

Anita Hill — a nationally known lawyer, educator and women’s advocate — received the inaugural Drum Major for Justice Award from Roxbury Community College on Saturday, Feb. 24.

During the Golden Jubilee Gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of Roxbury Community College, Hill was honored for demonstrating “an unwavering commitment to building a more just world.”

Hill is best known for her national advocacy for women and civil rights. In 1991, she came to national prominence as she testified during the confirmation hearings of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, where she accused Thomas of sexual harassment. Over two decades later, she became a major advocate for the #MeToo movement, a social movement and campaign against sexual violence and abuse.

Today, she is a professor of social policy, law and women’s gender and sexuality studies at Brandeis University. 

When presented with the award, Hill addressed the audience and let them know that difficult times ahead must be confronted, especially when it comes to diversity and education. 

“There is a whole litany of challenges that we have to confront. Education is at the center of those challenges,” Hill said. “There are forces — and they are well funded — who would like to remove our presence in higher education. They are attempting to remove our knowledge from the campus and colleges throughout the country.” 

However, Hill said that communities can and will work through difficult times as they have done in previous civil and social justice movements. 

“It seems to be that very often it is those hard times that wake us up, reawaken us, to what we must do to make [sure] that we do not fail,” Hill said. “We are not the generation that will be the ones who fail.”

Jackie Jenkins-Scott, interim president of Roxbury Community College, said she was honored to give this inaugural award to Hill and celebrate the college’s 50th anniversary. 

“The college was started with justice and community activism [so] to give the award to someone like Anita Hill, it’s a real honor,” Jenkins-Scott said.

Another highlight of the gala was the unveiling of an art installation created by local artists Napoleon Jones-Henderson and Stephen Hamilton in honor of the celebratory occasion. 

The 40-pound installation was created using copper sheets, woven textile elements and sculptural work. 

Hamilton shared how the art installation represents the college’s work within the community to educate and to advance Black people.

“Roxbury Community College is an institution of higher learning,” Hamilton said. “[We thought] about the history of Black [people] and our knowledge production, not only in this country, but also before we were brought to this country.”  

Delving further into how the piece was intentionally designed, Jones-Henderson talked about how the weaving element was a representation of Roxbury Community College and the Black community coming together as a whole. 

“The way we live in community, we weave together a fabric,” Jones-Henderson said. “We’re making a tapestry right now, and that’s the significance of this piece to the greatest extent because it represents this community. What greater joy, from my point of view, can one have only to be a part of weaving the tapestry.”

Jones-Henderson said the history of Roxbury Community College has fostered a beacon of learning and pride for the community.

After the award ceremony, Hill spoke exclusively with Boston University News Service to share her thoughts about what receiving this inaugural award meant to her. 

“The energy that is here…it just speaks to what a great positive force RCC is for this community,” Hill said. “Receiving this award just in recognition of the work that I’ve done at the same time celebrating this anniversary, it’s just remarkable. I don’t even have words for it.”

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