Ijoema Oluo: “If you don’t do it now, then when?”

New York Times Bestselling Author Ijoema Oluo, who wrote the novels, “So You Want To Talk About Race,” and, “Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America,” delivered the Carol Ortman Perkins lecture in Minnesota State’s Centennial Student Union Ballroom Tuesday.

Oluo said she visits campuses in the hopes of supporting students and staff.

“I always hope when I’m visiting a campus that I’m able to create a space of safety and recognition for students of color and a space to feel heard; to feel like somebody gets it,” said Oluo. “I’m also hoping to be able to support the work that students and faculty of color are already doing on campuses.”

Oluo also said her goal is to inspire audiences to discuss the topics included in the lecture.

“Whenever I come in and am giving a talk, I try to look at the space that I’m coming into, not only the campus but what’s happening in the world,” she said. “I try to create space for people to start having really honest, deep conversations on racism and power and to recognize some of their own power. I hope that people who are listening today will leave with some ideas of where their own personal power is and where they can leverage that power for change.”

When the lecture concluded, she said she was overall pleased with the results.

“I think it went well,” she said. “Everyone seemed very engaged, the questions I received were wonderful and it seemed like people truly heard me and are thinking about and talking about what was discussed.”

Liz Steinborn-Gourley, Director of the Women’s Center here at Minnesota State, said Oluo was a fitting candidate to speak at the lecture due to its purpose. 

“The purpose of the lecture is to engage the community in feminist scholarship to talk about advocacy, gender equity and anti-racism and I really feel like Ijouma captured that,” said Steinborn-Gourley. “Each time we have this lecture we try to find someone who is doing strong feminist work. Ijouma’s books have been incredible and have had a huge impact on people.” 

She also said it has been years since a lecture such as this has been held. 

“We’ve had a lot of featured book clubs on our campus and in the community,” she said. “It felt like a good time to have this as we haven’t had a lecture like this since before COVID. I think it went really well. We had a good turnout.”

Audience member and student Faith Mader said the event was well structured and she enjoyed the lecture. 

“It was amazing,” said Mader. “I think we needed that foundation before the Q&A. It was wonderful to hear her speak.”

Mader also said Oluo’s speech was enlightening and interesting.

“I think it was very liberating and also helped all of us connect our experiences to her own experience as well.”

Header photo: Courtesy National Center for Women and Information Technology

Write to Grace Anderson at

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