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Teach-In on Race to Engage Emerson Community

The entire Emerson community is invited to participate in a daylong series of panels that will explore issues of race and racism on Friday, October 14.

The first Teach-In on Race was coordinated by Writing, Literature and Publishing Associate Professor Jabari Asim, who said he wants everyone associated with the College—faculty, students, and staff—to feel welcome to attend one or more panels.

“We’re really hoping for some serious engagement and participation,” Asim said.

The Teach-In has its roots in the ad-hoc Cultural Competency Committee formed in the wake of a Spring 2015 student demonstration, during which a large group of students marched into the final faculty assembly of the year to protest treatment of students of color and the lack of faculty diversity, Asim said. The Committee focused on increasing cultural competency training for faculty, but from that, President Lee Pelton and Provost Michaele Whelan asked Asim to pull together a forum that would benefit—and draw—the whole campus.

To that end, Asim said he’s tried to assemble a wide variety of panels, many of which are directly relevant to Emerson fields of study.

“Because race is a wide-ranging subject, you can’t really contain it within a single subject,” Asim said. “We wanted to provide various entry points for what people might be interested in.”

So there’s a panel called The Crisis in Casting for Stage and Media, which addresses problems people of color encounter in landing roles. Artful Change explores the question of whether art is just art, or if it should be used as a tool of progress. A documentary, Laughing While Mad: Race & Identity on American Sitcoms, will be shown in the Bright Family Screening Room.

Other panels include Anatomy of Activism, a how-to of mobilization moderated by EBONI President Chala Tshitundu; Crime and Punishment, about police relations and proportionally higher incarceration rates in communities of color; Intersectionality and what it means; and Building Community, a panel moderated by Elma Lewis Center Director Judy Pryor-Ramirez about using creativity to bring people together.

Panels will include a mix of Emerson students, staff, and faculty, as well as visiting faculty, activists, artists, and writers.

The Teach-In will kick off at 10:00 am with a keynote address, “A Revolution of Value: A Politics for Our Time,” by Dr. Eddie Glaude, chair of the Center for African American Studies and the William S. Tod Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University.

Glaude will talk about “breaking the racial habits that give life to…the value gap”—the belief that white people are more “valuable” than others.

Asim said he hopes that at the end of the day, people will be a little more “enlightened” and more open to new ideas and perspectives.

“That includes all of us,” he said. “We’re calling on the experts to help us, because we’re not experts; we’re just human beings wrestling with the issues.

“We’re operating from a welcoming point of view,” he added. “We want people to be a little more comfortable discussing or engaging with the issues without being put in the spotlight.”

The Teach-In on Race is being sponsored by the offices of the President, Academic Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion, and the Honors Program. 

For a complete schedule of panels and a list of panelists, visit the Teach-In on Race web page.

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