Justice: 2020-21 Event Series

Sarah Lawrence College JusticeSarah Lawrence College, today and throughout its history, is a convening place to discuss ideas, research, and current events. The College is a marketplace—a cultural hub—for knowledge, traded through discourse and dialogue and rooted in the pursuit of our motto, “wisdom with understanding.” In this spirit, and in advancing what has always been the core of a Sarah Lawrence education, this academic year’s theme is Justice.

The Justice series focuses our attention on the inequities made starkly apparent by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the protests against racism and police brutality that have been unfolding in our country and across the world. As Martin Luther King, Jr. trenchantly stated: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963). Alongside racial justice, we consider aspects of justice that include environmental justice, economic justice, philosophical and moral underpinnings of the concept of justice, justice in US jurisprudence, and restorative justice, to name only a few.

Event Recaps

Anti-Asian Racism and Violence: Are Hate Crime Prosecutions the Answer?
with Shan Wu MFA '84

In the wake of both the Atlanta shootings—where six Asian women were shot dead by a white male—and the pervasive anti-Asian racism and violence that has occurred amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, this event explores what it means to prosecute these injustices as hate crimes. Join attorney and Sarah Lawrence Trustee Shan Wu MFA '84 as he discusses the history of anti-Asian violence in the U.S. and the role of the criminal justice system in prosecuting crimes against Asians.

Grieving as an Act of Resistance with Dr. Cristina Rivera Garza

On March 25, 2021, recent MacArthur Fellow Dr. Cristina Rivera Garza engaged in conversation with faculty members Una Chung (Global Studies, Media Studies, Women's History), Heather Cleary (Spanish), and Kate Zambreno (Writing) to discuss her recent collection, Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country, which explores Mexico's epidemic of disappearances and femicide. Working from and against this political context, Rivera Garza posits that collective grief is an act of dissent against state violence, and that writing is a powerful mode of seeking social justice and embodying resilience and care. Also a celebrated speculative fiction writer, Dr. Rivera Garza heads the creative writing program at the University of Houston.

Dr. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. in Conversation
with President Cristle Collins Judd

On February 18, 2021, Sarah Lawrence welcomed Dr. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. for a discussion of his most recent book Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own. A New York Times Best Seller, Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own has been named one of The Ten Best Books of the Year by The Chicago Tribune, a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post and Time magazine, and shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice.

James Baldwin grew disillusioned by the failure of the civil rights movement to force America to confront its lies about race. Calling on James Baldwin to make sense of today, Dr. Glaude confronts the question, "In our own moment, when that confrontation feels more urgently needed than ever, what can we learn from his struggle?" It is at once a searing exploration that lays bare the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we all must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.

Justice and Education: A Panel on Equity & Access in Education

On November 12, 2020, this event kicked off Sarah Lawrence's new Justice and Education Speaker Series, which seeks to highlight a mixture of local and national experts addressing the topics of race, equity, and access in our K-12 public schools. A panel discussion featuring leaders in education introduced historical and systemic forces that currently shape and challenge education through the lens of equity and access. Featured panelists included:

  • Carol Robinson, M.Ed, Director for Early Childhood Educational Programs, Family Services of Westchester
  • Marina Marcou, O'Malley Alliance for Quality Education Public Policy and Education Fund, Policy and Operations Director
  • Dr. Ainsley Erickson, Associate Professor, History and Education Policy, and Co-Director, Center on History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Dr. Camila Bell, Former Humanities New York Fellow with PhD in Cultural Foundations of Education, independent scholar and educational consultant

Douglas Brinkley: A Historian’s Look at the 2020 Election

On November 6, as the nation waited for the results of the 2020 presidential election, President Cristle Collins Judd and the Sarah Lawrence community welcomed Douglas Brinkley to hear a historian's take on the latest developments. Brinkley is the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and Professor of History at Rice University, a CNN Presidential Historian, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

In Conversation: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and President Cristle Collins Judd

On October 21, President Cristle Collins Judd engaged in a lively conversation with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, author, sociology professor, New York Times contributing opinion writer, and contributing editor of The New Republic and of ESPN's The Undefeated website. Dr. Dyson’s 2017 book, Tears We Cannot Stop, has been lauded by the The New York Times Book Review as "one of the most frank and searing discussions on race ... a deeply serious, urgent book…" As the country grapples with racist division at a level not seen since the 1960s, Dr. Dyson’s voice soars above the rest with conviction and compassion. In his 2016 New York Times op-ed piece "Death in Black and White," and in Tears We Cannot Stop, Dr. Dyson makes a provocative and deeply personal call for change. He argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.

SLC Reads Behold the Dreamers with Author Imbolo Mbue

On September 16, writing faculty member Carolyn Ferrell '84 moderated a discussion with Imbolo Mbue, author of Behold the Dreamers, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Blue Metropolis Words to Change Award, and an Oprah's Book Club selection. A novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream, Behold the Dreamers tells the story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy. Named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times and The Washington Post and a Best Book of the Year by close to a dozen publications, the novel has been adapted into an opera in Poland, a stage play in Seattle, and was recently optioned for a movie.

This event kicked off the 2020-21 Justice series, and was the culminating event in our inaugural SLC Reads program, which aimed to introduce students to SLC’s academic environment and faculty community, foster an exchange of ideas, and encourage our community to explore perspectives on themes related to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.