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Anna Deavere Smith to Deliver Keynote at Teach-In on Race

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Dear Emerson Community,

I am writing to invite you to attend Emerson’s Annual Teach-In on Race, a hybrid two-day event on February 16-17, 2023. The theme of this year’s Teach-In on Race is “Teaching Truthfully about Race and Racism within the Academy.” It will feature a keynote address by Anna Deavere Smith, celebrated playwright, actor, and educator.

The event will include a student-led session, a session about student activism led by Vice President for Equity and Social Justice Shaya Gregory Poku, a panel presented by the Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI), and an interactive session for faculty offered by Joshua Streeter that will explore the importance of teaching about racism. A full schedule of events is available on the Teach-In web page.

You may know our keynote speaker best as Nancy McNally on The West Wing, or for her roles on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie or Shondaland’s Inventing Anna, but the core of her work is theater. Anna Deavere Smith uses her singular brand of theatre to explore issues of community, character, and diversity in America. The MacArthur Foundation honored Smith with the “Genius” Fellowship for creating “a new form of theatre — a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.”

Her play Notes From the Field was the winner of an Obie Award, the 2017 Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show, and was named one of the Top 10 Plays of the year by Time Magazine. Among Smith’s other awards are the 2012 National Humanities Medal, the 2015 Jefferson Lecturer honor, the George Polk Career Award in Journalism, and the Dean’s Medal from Stanford University School of Medicine. She has several honorary degrees including ones from Harvard, Spelman, and Oxford.

Smith is a professor at New York University.

The keynote address will be open to the public and live streamed from the Robert J. Orchard Stage at the Paramount Center.

This year’s Teach-In on Race also will include a theatrical performance entitled An Evening in History with James Baldwin: Featuring Charles Reese. This interactive literary and performance art salon bears witness (as James Baldwin would say) to a very unique time in history by shedding a light on the secret Baldwin/Kennedy meeting of 1963, and further sparking a conversation on race relations in America. Reese achieves this through excerpts from the critically acclaimed off-Broadway play, James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire (written by the late playwright Howard Simon and edited by Reese).

This wonderfully robust program has been developed to underscore Emerson’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion, with support from the President’s Office, Academic Affairs, Office of Internationalization and Equity, Social Justice Collaborative, Emerson Prison Initiative, Deans’ Fellowship for Racial Equity and Leadership Development, ProArts Consortium, and our dedicated students, faculty, and staff. 

I hope that through this two-day exploration into race and racism within the academy, that we, as a community of creatives and scholars, will more authentically engage with each other about our work and craft.

Dr. Anthony Pinder
Vice Provost, Internationalization and Equity

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