Independent Minds, Working Together

Wooster Forum to Examine the Complexity of Race

Annual series begins next month at The College of Wooster

August 27, 2013 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — The complex and often controversial subject of race will be discussed and debated in detail when The College of Wooster presents “Facing Race” at the 2013 Wooster Forum this fall. The series is designed to encourage critical reflection on the concept of race from an array of perspectives and to help students, as well as members of the community at large, to understand the social, cultural, economic, legal, and political impact it has across the country and around the world. All events are free and open to the public, and each begins at 7:30 p.m. in McGaw Chapel (340 E. University St.), unless otherwise noted. 

“The speakers, plays, films, and exhibits of the 2013 Forum explore the inherent diversity of people and critically examine the idea of race,” says Henry Kreuzman, dean for curriculum and academic engagement at Wooster. “Why does the myth of biological races persist? How does this historically constructed concept continue to shape social policies, economic decisions, and people’s lives? What can we do to reshape the world in a more equitable and just manner? We plan to address these questions along with others this fall, and we invite everyone on campus and in the community to join the discussion.”

The series opens Sept. 14 with a production in Freedlander Theatre (329 E. University St.) by the Albany Park Theater Project (APTP), a multi-ethnic youth theater group that seeks to foster social justice and understanding through creative productions that represent real-life stories of immigrants and working-class Americans. APTP seeks to enrich the cultural environment of the Albany Park neighborhood in Chicago, and provide purposeful, imaginative experiences for teens. Established in 1998, APTP has presented more than 50 performances, all of which have been written, composed, choreographed, and performed by the youth artists.

The first speaker in the series will be Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey, the required reading for incoming Wooster students this past summer. Nazario, who will speak on Tuesday, Sept. 17, specializes in issues facing Latin Americans and tackles such topics as drug addiction, hunger, and immigration. Her book has received national acclaim and more than a dozen awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, a George Polk Award for International Reporting, the Grand Prize of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Guillermo Martinez-Marquez Award for Overall Excellence.

The next event will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 2, when award-winning filmmaker, writer, civil rights advocate, and interfaith leader Valarie Kaur discusses “America after Oak Creek and Boston: Race, Religion, and Resilience.” Kaur works for social change through the power of storytelling. Through her essays and documentaries, she seeks to create an emotional and realistic understanding of social issues, while advocating for efforts to understand the differences among people. She is the founder of the advocacy group Groundswell and the producer of “Divided We Fall,” a documentary on post-9/11 racism in the United States.

The subject of race and science will be addressed at the forum event on Tuesday, Oct. 15, when Howard University geneticist Georgia Dunston presents “Human Genome Variation and Race: Are We Uniquely the Same?” Dunston’s research focuses on diseases, genes, and immune reactions that are common in or unique to the African American population. After being inspired by the Human Genome Project, Dunston turned her work to the genetic heritage of African Americans and founded the National Human Genome Center at Howard University. Her work in genetics and diversity has earned her numerous awards, including the NAACP Science Achievement Award.

The fifth and final forum event will feature television host and culture critic Touré, on Wednesday, Oct. 30. The former host of Fuse’s “Hip Hop Shop,” Touré is now the co-host of MSNBC’s “The Cycle” and the author of Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? What it Means to be Black Now, which was named one of the Most Notable Books of 2011 by The New York Times and The Washington Post. He was also and nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Non-Fiction, and is a contributing author to a variety of publications, including The New York Times and Rolling Stone.

Aside from the featured Forum lectures, there will be several associated events, beginning with a presentation by Tommie Shelby, professor of African and African American Studies as well as philosophy at Harvard, at the Philosophy Department’s Lindner Lecture on Oct. 23. Shelby, is the author of We Who are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity and co-author of Hip Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason.

In addition, Wooster’s Department of Theatre and Dance will stage “The Golden Age,” a play by Louis Nowra, Oct. 24-26, while the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement will sponsor an appearance by investigative journalist and acclaimed author Sonia Shah, who will discuss “Poverty, Race, and Medical Practice” on Nov. 12.

The College of Wooster Art Museum will also address the subject with an exhibition titled, “Race: Are We So Different?” Aug. 27-Nov. 24 in Ebert Art Center (1220 Beall Ave.). A project of the American Anthropological Association, the exhibition is intended to encourage museum visitors to explore the science, history, and everyday experience of race.

For more information about the 2013 Wooster Forum, call 330-263-2008 or visit the website.