Carolyn Finney Delivers the 25th Annual Otis Lecture

Carolyn Finney, the author of Black Faces, White Spaces, gave the 25th annual Otis Lecture at Bates College on Oct. 12. Finney’s biography describes her as an author and cultural geographer, focusing specifically on issues that surround identity, race and representation. Finney is a Fulbright scholar, a Canon National Parks Science Scholar and she received a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental Studies from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

The Otis Lectures began in 1996. The speaker visits Bates for a short period of time to meet with staff and students with the goal of sharing interests and discussing their views, especially regarding environmental studies. 

In her lecture, Finney touched on her experiences with others, her life and how her stories connect to the environment. She explained that a broken environmental system relates to broken people and people who carry trauma. She spoke about how many people of color have never thought about their relationship to the environment or have been asked about it before. 

Finney also mentioned redemption, referencing the novel, “The Color Purple,” and the redemption arc of one of the characters, Albert, who is left by people in his life after his actions affect them negatively. He transforms into a better person than he was before, and redeems himself in the eyes of those who left him. Finney explained that society cannot “cancel” everyone, and that it is crucial for there to be room for forgiveness. 

Finney also introduced the term “Kintsugi,” a Japanese term, which is a metaphor for piecing together broken pieces, and not disposing of those “negative” pieces one typically would. 

Carolyn Finney used the lessons she found important throughout her life to captivate audiences. 

“Being an environmental studies major, I’ve heard of all the different issues that have been occuring, but the way she (Carolyn Finney) describes the issues and connected them to her life had me attached to the lecture,” Carley Freund ‘26 said.

Bates students, faculty and eager listeners ended the event with a standing ovation.