Dr. Glory Van Scott: Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy
On Monday, January 16th, 2023, we honor and remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., social activist, who played a vital role in the American civil rights movement by fighting for racial equality and human rights.
Dr. Glory Van Scott, activist, artist, and educator, who was personally impacted by the racial violence of the 1950s when her cousin Emmett Till was murdered, has used her life experiences as drivers of her personal and career journey in the arts. One of the obstacles that she faced, as she states in the poem that she wrote for her cousin Emmett, has ignited her passion and determination “to eradicate racial and religious prejudice” and to speak the truth through her art.
Jesus to turn His face
to the sun,
where beauty and love and humanity abound,
so that He can see
I did not succumb
to the depths of despair
and hatred because of Emmett’s death.
I want him to see that I became a warrior for peace,
and brother and sisterhood,
and that I know my success in life
is my refusal to spew hatred,
and that my challenge continues to be
racial and religious prejudice."
– May 26, 2017, (Excerpt from her Memoir)
During his fight for racial equality, Dr. King posed a question to an audience in Montgomery, Alabama and to the rest of the country “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Throughout Dr. Van Scott’s life, giving back to others has been a priority of hers and this passion has not been ignited, but recently rekindled in a different direction.
In a recent conversation with Dr. Christopher Irobunda, Vice Chair of Faculty Development, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, Dr. Van Scott stated: “I have shifted, not from being an artist, but shifted the artist to being bigger and broader than what I had been before.”
"In my life as an artist, I have spent time making sure that the arts are really going places in terms of having funding and that there are people helping to teach and create art. One day, a new idea came to mind when I was overhearing a conversation at Columbia Presbyterian. I looked around and said to myself---Hey, I need to see more diversity here. I said to myself, well how can I help? And so, when I met Dr. Irobunda, I realized how he worked, looked at the people that he worked with and how they were and how committed and dedicated they were to their patients. I said I can jump in here somewhere like a little butterfly and help. I decided to jump in there and be a part of it."
The Department of Medicine Office of Faculty Development, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is truly appreciative of Dr. Van Scott’s continued support and sponsorship to the Department’s DEI initiatives.
When asked why she chooses to donate to this important cause, Dr. Van Scott stated:
"I do it because it is a time of your life that you are doing things and you are very busy like the artist that I am, in every way and every shape or form. And then all of a sudden you say wait a minute, if I did not have the medical profession to help me, I would never have gotten as far along in the way that I have. So, you have to consider that you have done only half of the job when you were doing it as the artist and now the other half has to come from the person who is assisting you in some way to make sure that those that are committed to the medical profession continue with people like me and artists who want to make sure things are done and done well. I knew I could help in that way."
Dr. Van Scott is grateful for the compassionate and attentive care that she has received at Columbia as it is how she treat others: “I came up as a humanist and as a person who really believed in looking and seeing other people. Not just looking at them but seeing them, feeling what they might feel, talking to them.”
Her passion to giving to this DEI initiative continues. According to Dr. Van Scott “You are far richer in your mind and in your spirit when you are giving back to the world.”
According to Dr. King, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Throughout her life, Dr. Van Scott has been able to speak the truth through her art. Currently, through her generous donations to the Department of Medicine DEI initiatives, she is ensuring that more providers that look like her are caring for patients in the community, something that to her is truly important in patient care.