Belonging: 2021-22 Event Series

Text that says Sarah Lawrence College BelongingIn light of the recent ideological conflicts over the very nature of community in the United States—and in countries across the globe—marked by questions of citizenship and images of migration, Sarah Lawrence College is focusing the 2021-22 iteration of its annual academic event series around the topic Belonging. This collective consideration of a theme from a range of geographical, disciplinary, and temporal perspectives builds on the work of the series’ previous themes: Justice (2020-21), E Pluribus Unum (2019-20), Difference in Dialogue (2018-19), and Democracy and Education (2017-18).

Belonging events will facilitate collaborative contemplation of diverse marginalized communities’ battles over and for belonging throughout the United States’ national journey toward being a place where, as Langston Hughes put it, “opportunity is real, and life is free” and “equality is in the air we breathe.” Beyond the borders of the US, our discussions will also explore historical belonging and its antonym, exclusion—slavery and antisemitism; forced diasporas and migrations; colonialism and its children.

This focus seeks to advance the understanding of the term “belonging” as a call to action, as one side of a dynamic that is not an automatically enduring, always already reality; as something that, in order to be sustainable across time and space, requires sustained ethical action. In order for all members of our communities to experience belonging, we must all commit to empathy-driven engagement: departing from, rather than perpetuating, the status quo. It is our hope that the conversations we will engage in together throughout this year will be a positive step in this direction.

The College welcomes ideas and suggestions for speakers or topics of interest for the remainder of the Belonging series. Share an idea

Upcoming Events

Sankofa Screening and Panel Discussion

Wednesday, February 2, 2022
6-8 p.m. film screening
8-9 p.m. panel discussion

This event is free and open to all; registration information coming soon

This special screening of Sankofa will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Kishauna Soljour, history faculty.

Sankofa film posterSankofa (1993), written and directed by Ethiopian-born filmmaker Haile Gerima, tells the story of an African American fashion model named Mona who goes on a spiritual journey of resistance to confront her past. An encounter with a local griot sends her on a transcendental journey back through time, where she emerges as Shola, an enslaved woman on a plantation somewhere in the Americas. The film's title is derived from the word "Sankofa" in the dialect of Ghana's Akan people, meaning to retrieve. This concept is represented by an African Diaspora symbol of a bird flying forward with its head turned backward holding a previous egg in its mouth, recovering what was lost in order to move forward. The movie is a bridge between the origin of the ideology and the meaning it holds in society today.

The panel discussion following the film screening will explore the link between the legacy of slavery and modern societal problems, resistance and liberation, identity, activism, community-building, and generational storytelling. In order to build and expand on these themes, additional community resources include: a genealogy workshop, learning companion, suggested readings, small group discussions, and a podcast. This event is part of a series that engages different generations and individual approaches to injustice in the past and possibilities for the future. While this initial conversation focuses on descendants of the African Diaspora, future events will provide an opportunity to discover how other groups, communities, and populations tell their stories.

This event, in partnership with Ava DuVernay’s film collective Array, is sponsored by the offices of the President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Alumni Relations, and The Anita L. Stafford Office of Community Partnerships.

A zoom link will be sent to registrants within 24 hours of the event.

Mae Ngai
Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies, Professor of History, and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University

March 3, 2022
Details and registration coming soon

Mae Ngai is Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and Professor of History and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University. She  is a U.S. legal and political historian interested in the histories of immigration, citizenship, nationalism, and the Chinese diaspora.  She is author of the award winning Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004); The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America (2010); and The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics (2021). Ngai has written on immigration history and policy for the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, the Nation, and Dissent. Before becoming a historian she was a labor-union organizer and educator in New York City, working for District 65-UAW and the Consortium for Worker Education. She is now writing Nation of Immigrants: A Short History of an Idea (under contract with Princeton University Press). 

Recent Events

In Conversation: Lisa Coleman and Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo

Lisa ColemanOn October 28, thought leader and New York University's Chief Diversity Officer Lisa Coleman joined Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo, Sarah Lawrence's Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, for a conversation about the meanings, challenges, and possiblities of Belonging—past, present, and future.

In addition to her role as chief diversity officer, Lisa Coleman serves as NYU's inaugural Senior Vice President for Global Inclusion and Strategic Innovation. In this role, she works with senior leaders, internal stakeholders, external partners, and constituents to advance, promote, and build capacity for strategic global inclusion, diversity, equity, belonging, and innovation initiatives across NYU’s global network. Prior to her role at NYU, Coleman served as Harvard University’s first Chief Diversity Officer.

Ifeoma Kidde NwankwoA self-described “teacher-servant-leader-scholar,” Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo comes to Sarah Lawrence from Vanderbilt University, where she was an associate professor in the Department of English and a faculty affiliate with the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, the Program in Latinx Studies, and the Center for Latin American Studies. Her significant administrative experience at Vanderbilt included serving as director of the program in American Studies and as Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships. In this latter role, she focused on a number of initiatives related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Prior to her time at Vanderbilt, Nwankwo served as co-director of the Atlantic Studies Initiative at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she also taught in the department of English and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies.

Peppermint at SLC

On October 20, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and SLC Theatre partnered to bring drag icon Peppermint to campus for a celebration of community, advocacy, queer liberation, and finding joy through self-love and artistic practice. The Barbara Walters Campus Center was filled with students eager to see and hear Peppermint in conversation with SLC alum and New York City based drag queen, writer, and interdisciplinary artist Julie J. Peppermint regaled the audience with stories from her journey on Broadway and RuPaul’s Drag Race, talked about being a trailblazer for the LGBTQIA community, and shared her thoughts on what it means to truly belong. The interview concluded with an illuminating call to action for Trans visibility on our stages, screens, and in our stories.

This event was made possible by a collaborative effort between SLC Drag Union, Belonging Action Ensemble, Musical Theatre Ensemble, Student Involvement & Leadership, SLC Events, Undergraduate Student Senate, and the Berelle Katz Samuel Theatre Fund.

Interior Chinatown: Migration, Citizenship, Belonging
featuring Charles Yu

Charles Yu and the book cover of Interior Chinatown

On Tuesday, September 28, Charles Yu joined President Cristle Collins Judd in a conversation about his 2020 National Book Award winning Interior Chinatown as well as the larger topic of belonging. Questions from the audience, comprised of students, faculty, staff, and the general public both in person and online, made for a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion.

Charles Yu is the author of four books, including Interior Chinatown (the winner of the 2020 National Book Award for fiction), and the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (a New York Times Notable Book and a TIME magazine best book of the year). He received the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 Award and was nominated for two Writers Guild of America Awards for his work on the HBO series, Westworld. He has also written for shows on FX, AMC, and HBO. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired, among other publications. Together with, he established the Betty L. Yu and Jin C. Yu Writing Prizes, in honor of his parents.