Many of Carleton’s visiting speakers are leaders in fields that intersect directly with civic engagement. Carleton students have a rich opportunity to make vital connections between these speakers’ insights, their civic engagement coursework and collaborations, and their own lives.

We want to support the extraordinary work ACE faculty are already doing to facilitate these connections, and in that spirit we offer these discussion questions around the work of visiting community-engaged speakers. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for how we could make this offering more useful to you and your students!

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (May 21, 2021)

Climate policy expert Ayana Elizabeth Johnson will deliver a convocation address on Friday, May 21, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

  1. Johnson works for both racial justice and climate justice. In this op-ed, she quotes Toni Morrison as saying, “the very serious function of racism … is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” In what ways could you consider racism a “distraction,” and what implications does this have for climate activism? 
  2. Johnson’s convocation bio emphasizes aspects of her identity. The bio reads, “ Many of today’s most compelling climate leaders, across generations, are women—especially Black, Indigenous, and other women of color.” What significance does Johnson’s identity play in her role as an advocate and educator for climate work? How do aspects of  your identity play a role in the community or civic work you take part in?
  3. In an interview with TIME, Johnson mentions that the issue with climate justice efforts is that the question isn’t “What we should do, ” but rather, “should we do anything?” What are some techniques we could use to move the conversation from “should” to “what” in the context of climate justice?
  4. In this interview about the launch of her podcast, How to Save a Planet, Johnson explains: “I  really wish … people were thinking about, Okay, this is what I’m good at, and how does that match with the [climate justice] work that needs doing? It’s that sort of power mapping of your skills and network and resources that I wish people were thinking more about, instead of just, I guess I go to the next march.” Do you think that “power mapping” of one’s skills and resources is important to civic engagement and organizing? Have you ever purposefully employed this technique or a similar technique? 
  5. Johnson responds in this interview that “those things [social justice and climate justice] are already intertwined, and when we try to deal with them separately, we set ourselves up for failure. If we try to just deal with climate or only deal with justice, then we’re dealing with a version of the problem that is so simplified as to be a problem that doesn’t actually exist.” What social justice issue(s) is your civic engagement work intertwined with? How does recognizing these connections change the work that you do? 
  6. Johnson highlights an essay published in the anthology she co-edited, All We Can Save: “Leah Stokes’s essay … is about how to have ever broadening circles of influence as far as bringing about climate solutions. … She kind of leads people through how we get to the bigger and bigger changes that need to be made. And starting with yourself is certainly fine. But if it stops there, that will never be enough.” What circles of influence do you bring to your work in civic engagement? Does your work broaden your own circles or the circles of others?
  7. What did you learn about how Johnson’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience, or vice versa?
  8. What skills or capacities does Johnson suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  9. What is the desired future that Johnson envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Rachel Sumekh (May 14, 2021)

Social entrepreneur and founder of Swipe Out Hunger Rachel Sumekh delivered a convocation address on Friday, May 14, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

  1. In this discussion about Swipe Out Hunger with UCLA students, Sumekh mentions that the best advice she received was from President Barack Obama: “many people are idealistic in their youth, and they say if you remain idealistic as you grow old then you’re crazy. But the truth is to stay idealistic as you grow old, otherwise we are not going to go anywhere new.” Why do you think this advice resonated so much with Sumekh and her mission? What place does idealism have in your work with civic engagement and drive to engage in this work? 
  2. Sumekh made the 30 under 30 Forbes list in 2017. What is the significance of  mainstream media recognition of a nonprofit entrepreneur? What does this say about the values praised by national media? What are the potential consequences of this type of attention and praise for activist movements?
  3. Swipe Out Hunger started with distributing meals from the dining halls to people in Skid Row, an LA neighborhood where there are high rates of impoverishment, as explained by Sumekh in this interview. What role did location play in the inspiration for and evolution of Swipe Out Hunger? What role do the priorities of your community play in your community or civic engagement, and what role should they play?
  4. On the Swipe out Hunger website the nonprofit asserts that their work strives to “advocate for legislation on a state and federal level to end student hunger” and that they “train students to become basic needs champions through their own advocacy efforts.” How do advocacy and volunteerism interact in community and civic engagement? What role do students play in developing what civic agency looks like? Why do you think this nonprofit emphasises the role of students in civic engagement and advocacy? 
  5. In this presentation Sumekh acknowledges, “there is no solution to hunger, it will always be a problem.” Instead, Swipe Out Hunger works toward creating attainable steps to reducing hunger in local communities. Do you agree that it is important to emphasize steps rather than a solution in addressing community needs? Why?
  6. In this op-ed, Sumakh writes about how her identity as a Persian Jewish woman has impacted her work, and the ways she seeks to challenge norms about who becomes involved in community work. What are the ways in which your identity impacts the community and civic work you have been a part of? What would you define as the norm in civic and community engagement? Would you like to revise or redefine that norm? 
  7. What did you learn about how Sumekh’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience, or vice versa?
  8. What skills or capacities does Sumekh  suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  9. What is the desired future that Sumekh envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Sia Her (May 7, 2021)

Hmong leader Sia Her delivered a convocation address on Friday, May 7, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

  1. In her Minnesota Women’s Press featured profile, Her explains that there are “very few culturally and linguistically appropriate and responsive places for victims of abuse from the API [Asian and Pacific Islander] community to go to for the support they need.” Why is it important for places of support to be “culturally and linguistically appropriate and responsive?” What do you think would be required to make this change?
  2. In this profile, Her describes a disconnect: “We know anecdotally that Asian American women are experiencing violence at a high rate [in Minnesota]. What we don’t have is actual data.” What advantages does “actual data” have compared to anecdotal evidence? What barriers are there to obtaining “actual data,” and how can they be overcome?
  3. In response to the March 16 Atlanta shootings, Her asserts that “Acknowledging the context of this crime is crucial for processing it.” What types of contexts do you think Her is referring to? Why is it necessary to acknowledge these contexts to process events like the Atlanta shootings? How do you acknowledge context in your work with the community?
  4. In a joint letter advocating for the 2021 Increase Teachers of Color Act, Her stated that “while we all eagerly anticipate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the centuries-old pandemic of racial inequities will persist. This legislation takes meaningful action to resolve this legacy and offer opportunity to all students in Minnesota.” What does the use of the word “pandemic” contribute to Her and her co-author’s argument? What “pandemics” have you encountered in your work with the community, and what does this word choice suggest about how these issues should be addressed?
  5. Her serves as Executive Director for the Minnesota State Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. One of the goals of the Council, as per their website , is that “Minnesota’s API communities trust the Council. A key function of the Council is as a liaison between state government and Minnesota’s API communities, which requires mutual trust.” What is the significance of explicitly stating this as a goal for the Council? What role does mutual trust play in the relationships of your civic engagement?
  6. What did you learn about how Her’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience, or vice versa?
  7. What skills or capacities does Her suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Her envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Baz Dreisinger (April 30, 2021)

The author and founder of the Prison-to-College-Pipeline program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice delivered a convocation address on Friday, April 30.

  1. Dreisinger is the founder of a program that helps incarcerated people attend college called the “Prison-to-College Pipeline.” What is the impact of the word “pipeline” in the foundation’s name? Why is word choice important in naming organizations?
  2. In this video, Dreisinger states that justice is a complex term but that she defines it as a “push for humanity.” How is this similar to or different from definitions of justice you’re familiar with? If the criminal justice system defined justice the same way as Dreisinger does, what would change? 
  3. This New York Times review of Dreisinger’s book, Incarceration Nations, quotes Dreisinger as arguing that “the world needs a healthy dose of Norwegian janteloven, ‘a condescending attitude toward individuality and personal success.’” Dreisinger goes on to say that “Janteloven has no room for mass incarceration.” Why do you think this would be the case? Do you think janteloven currently has a place in American culture, and do you think it should?
  4. Dreisinger explains that workers in the Norway prison system have “backgrounds in social work and law, while in the US it is run by people with military backgrounds.” How do you think this difference might play out in how the prison system functions in each country? What connections can you draw between this militaristic tendency in US prison operations and American culture more broadly?
  5. This New York Times review of Dreisinger’s book, Incarceration Nations,  criticizes Dreisinger’s “insertion of herself into the narrative as a self-critical expert-naïf” as “distracting and occasionally overwrought.” What are some potential ethical risks Dreisinger’s book project runs? What is the role of narrative in social change, and what is the relationship between narrative and power?
  6. What did you learn about how Dreisinger’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience, or vice versa?
  7. What skills or capacities does Dreisinger suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Dreisinger envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Scott Freeman ’78 (April 16, 2021)

Environmental educator Scott Freeman ’78 delivered a convocation address on Friday, April 16.

  1. In this op-ed, Freeman argues against the conventional college lecture format:  “Unfortunately, the data backing the use of lecture have almost always devolved to personal empiricism: ‘It worked for me.’ … faculty members aren’t representative of today’s learners, and data show that what worked for them does not work for the vast majority of their students.” In your own experience, have you ever noticed this type of “personal empiricism”? What are some ways to move the conversation in those contexts beyond “it worked for me”?
  2. Freeman asserts in this op-ed that “However well intentioned, statements and committees won’t solve the racism, equity and inclusion issues in our classrooms.” In fact, he calls such statements “the academic equivalent of ‘extending our thoughts and prayers.’” Do you agree with his comparison? How can colleges and universities move beyond this current method to enact meaningful change?
  3. In this study, Freeman and his fellow researchers found that after a single day of climate change education using local (rather than global) evidence, “students indicated (1) an increased awareness that global warming would affect their lives, (2) a greater willingness to change their personal behavior, and (3) a higher level of support for government action.” Does this finding surprise you? In your own education, which has been more emphasized, global or local contexts, and what do you think the effect has been?
  4. Freeman is both an environmentalist and an advocate for dismantling racist traditions in STEM classrooms, which he says include the traditional lecture format. In this essay, he emphasizes the importance of living “a natural life,” which he says is “characterized by an ecological state of mind, and by a humble and interdependent point of view.” How do you think living a “natural life” translates to the classroom as you’ve experienced it? What parallels can you see between Freeman’s life philosophy and his classroom advocacy? 
  5. What did you learn about how Freeman’s individual life experience contributed to his academic learning experience, or vice versa?
  6. What skills or capacities does Freeman suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  7. What is the desired future that Freeman envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Ralph James Savarese (April 2, 2021)

Disability studies scholar Ralph James Savarese will deliver a convocation address on Friday, April 2, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

These questions are based on Savarese’s essay “From Neurodiversity to Neurocosmopolitanism: Beyond Mere Acceptance and Inclusion” (Chapter 11 of Herrera and Perry (eds.), Ethics and Neurodiversity, available online here) and also refer to the work of disability justice activist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

  1. Throughout his essay, Savarese refers to individuals who are not on the autism spectrum or without any other forms of neurodiversity as “neurotypicals,” thereby specifically naming every group in the conversation about autism. Does this explicit naming  of neurotypical people change the tone of the conversation? In your experience engaging with identities different from your own, has every group in the conversation been acknowledged? If not, what would change if they were?
  2. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha comments that many abled people have been taught to think of the lived reality of many disabled people as “failure.” Where do you think the roots of this line of thinking lie? Is there a similar pattern of thinking regarding neurodiversity? How does this line of thinking intersect with how you personally think about failure?
  3. Savarese hopes for a “neurocosmopolitan mixing” of autism and neurotypicality, and starts to imagine what it would require. He specifies: “Both autism and neurotypicality must cease to be strictly themselves in the participatory presence of the other; the anthropologist on Mars must become, at least in part, a Martian.” When interacting with people with different backgrounds or identities from your own, have you seen yourself or others change due to the “participatory presence of the other”? What do you think the potential benefits or drawbacks might be to this shift?
  4.  Savarse cites Melissa Park’s work in his proposals for a neurocosmopolitan future: “If respect is to flourish, it simply has to find a foothold in medicine where, as Melissa Park … puts it, ‘institutionalized forms of misrecognition are as debilitating as disease processes or diagnostic categories.”’ Although this example pertains to the field of medicine, have you encountered any “institutionalized forms of misrecognition” in your own life? If so, what could some possible solutions be?
  5. Piepzna-Samarasinha argues that “changing work to really embody disability justice means throwing out most ways people have learned how to organize.” Why do you think this might be the case, and by this reasoning, how does organizing need to change to embody disability justice? What needs to be thrown out? What needs to fill those empty spaces? 
  6. What did you learn about how Savarese’s individual life experience contributed to his academic learning experience, or vice versa?
  7. What skills or capacities does Savarse suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Savarese envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Sharon Washington Risher (February 12, 2021)

Minister and gun control activist Sharon Washington Risher delivered a convocation address on Friday, February 12, from 12:30 to 1: 30 p.m.

  1. Gun violence and gun control reforms are topics that are often hard to discuss in the United States. What aspects of U.S. history do you think contribute to this, and where in U.S. history can you identify the prospect of change?
  2. Risher is a reverend, and faith and forgiveness are central to her gun-control advocacy. How do you think these religious underpinnings affect the efficacy of her message, in either positive or negative ways? Generally speaking, does community organizing benefit from a shared identity? Why or why not?
  3. During Attorney-General William Barr’s confirmation, Risher testified: “As a member of the Everytown Survivor Network, I share my story to put a human face on our nation’s gun violence crisis.” Risher’s emphasis on a “human face” points to the importance of engendering empathy in effecting change. What is the role of empathy in activism, and what should it be? Are there any dangers or limits to using empathy as a tool?
  4. In her testimony at Attorney-General William Barr’s confirmation hearing, Risher named the nine individuals who were killed in the Charleston shooting so that her audience would “feel empowered to help bring about change.” How could you personally empower others to become involved in your community and bring about change, and what change would you seek to bring about?
  5. Risher is involved with the organization Everytown for Gun Safety, which describes itself as “a movement of nearly 6 million mayors, teachers, survivors, gun owners, students, and everyday Americans.” What messages does the wording of this statement send to its audiences? What could be its potential benefits and drawbacks?
  6. What did you learn about how Risher’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience, or vice versa?
  7. What skills or capacities does Risher suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Risher envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Bree Newsome (February 5, 2021)

Artist and civil rights activist Bree Newsome delivered a convocation address on Friday, February 5, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

  1. Newsome asserts that protesting and voting are “both part of being a full citizen and participating in the society.” Do you agree or disagree, and why? What kinds of barriers could prevent people from participating fully in society?
  2. Newsome is known, among other things, for pulling down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House in 2015. She explains that she did so with “historical awareness,” which she describes as awareness of “the history of civil disobedience and the history of the civil rights movement in this country.” Is historical awareness necessary for activism? What kind of historical awareness do you have, and where does it come from—your background, your collegiate education, or another source? 
  3. In this interview, Newsome reflects on her decision to remove the Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House, after which she was immediately arrested. Although she knew the act was dangerous, she says that “I knew that I would regret it more if I had an opportunity to do this—which I felt was very much the right thing to do—and we had not done it.” The flag in question has since been permanently removed, which she credits in part to her action. What is the relationship between civil disobedience and social change?  
  4. Newsome explains the significance of her removal of a Confederate flag for herself personally: “I am a descendant of the people for whom this flag represented enslavement. … I just kind of remain humbled by it because it’s like, yes, it’s Bree Newsome scaling the flagpole but … it represents so much more than me.” In the same way that a Confederate flag is a symbol, Newsome recognizes that her act, as a Black woman, of removing the flag is also symbolic. What is the role of symbolism in cultural change, and how would you determine what constitutes a symbol?
  5. Newsome comments that “The things that Black women say become the talking points for politicians, but we don’t really have much political leverage beyond people calling for a kind of token representation from us in certain places or playing the role of mascot.” What constitutes political leverage? How is it determined who has political leverage and who doesn’t?
  6. What did you learn about how Newsome’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience, or vice versa?
  7. What skills or capacities does Newsome suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Newsome envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Dylan Miner (November 6, 2020)

Artist and art historian Dylan Miner delivered a convocation address on Friday, November 6.

  1. Miner argues that “when we think about contemporary art, we need to think of it as not always reproducing the dominant way of being in the world.” Do you agree that art either reproduces or counters the dominant way of being in the world? If so, is all art political? Why or why not?
  2. Activism has been extremely visible in the media and communities across the world throughout COVID-19. Existing movements against police brutality and structural racism have found new support and spaces, and new movements have also been created. Has art made similar strides during this time of pandemic, and how does this intersect with activism?
  3. Miner is quoted as saying, “We have to reclaim those small spaces, our stories, and use them to create [a] better and more just world.” What does it mean to reclaim a story, and how could it be used to create a better and more just world? 
  4. Miner is described as “finding a wider audience as he moves from street art and Indigenous cultural centers to art galleries,” and has spoken about wanting to “engage with radical politics … within the confines of the museum or the gallery.” How might working with a museum or gallery change how an artist engages with radical politics? How might viewing an artwork in a gallery as opposed to on the street change how it is perceived, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
  5. Miner is quoted in this article as saying, “A lot of my work is about reclamation and understanding history. It’s not as something in the past … it’s understanding our own situatedness, our own being here in this time and space as integrally connected with history, but also understanding that history is not somehow removed from the future.” What do you think it means for an artist to understand their own situatedness? Do all artists understand this? How do you understand your own situatedness?
  6. What did you learn about how Miner’s individual life experience contributed to his academic learning experience?
  7. What skills or capacities does Miner suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Miner envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Helen Forsythe (October 30, 2020)

Northfield activist and organizer Helen Forsythe delivered a convocation address on Friday, October 30.

  1. Forsythe is one of the founding members of Northfield Curbside Composting, which describes itself as “a locally run collection service with an emphasis on employing young people at living wage standards and empowering them through team decision making and management.” By benefiting both the community and the collective’s employees, this is an example of reciprocal community engagement. What criteria can we use to ensure that our projects are advantageous for both the organizers and the community when it might not always be clear?
  2. In what ways is youth activism unique? Consider what only youth can bring to the table, as well as any potential challenges of working with young people.
  3. Considering the ways in which Forsythe organizes youth activism and community engagement and the ways in which Carleton and its students organize activism and civic engagement, do Carleton students engage with their communities and activism in different ways than non–college students of similar ages? 
  4. Forsythe started this gofundme page with the call to action “Help Minneapolis high school students in Young People’s Action Coalition replace police in our schools with real community alternatives and transform the education system towards racial justice!” The page has raised over $35,000 as of October 1st, 2020 for this cause. What are the advantages and limitations of platforms like gofundme as they apply to community organizing? 
  5. In the age of social media, platforms like this gofundme page Forsythe created have the ability to be shared and to go viral. Are they a supplement or a substitution to traditional fundraising methods for community engagement organizations (or neither)?
  6.  Forsythe is also a member of the Young People’s Action Coalition, which describes itself here as “a democratically run youth organization founded by students in 2013 to build an intersectional (social and environmental justice) youth movement in MN.” What place does intersectionality have in community involvement? What are the pros and cons of simultaneous activism in multiple areas?
  7. What did you learn about how Forsythe’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience?
  8. What skills or capacities does Forsythe suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  9. What is the desired future that Forsythe envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore (October 23, 2020)

Grassroots organizer and scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore delivered a convocation address on Friday, October 23.

  1. In this interview, Gilmore explains that “abolition seeks to undo the way of thinking and doing things that sees prison and punishment as solutions for all kinds of social, economic, political, behavioral, and interpersonal problems. Abolition, though, is not simply decarceration—put everybody out on the street—it is reorganizing how we live our lives together in the world.” What is your relationship to the idea that punishment is a solution to social problems? How would we need to reorganize the way we live together in the world to truly dismantle this way of thinking?
  2. In the short documentary about Gilmore’s theories, Geographies of Racial Capitalism, Gilmore argues that “capitalism requires inequality and racism enshrines it.” How do you interpret the phrase “capitalism requires inequality”? Can it be applied to our current government, economy, and society in America? How does racism enshrine capitalism? 
  3. COVID-19 is more prevalent in prison populations than in the general population. In this interview, Gilmore talks about the fact that “America has 1 in 4 prisoners in the world and 1 in 4 cases of COVID-19.” What are the potential implications of these two facts? What does this statistic suggest about the prison system or the systems that govern it?
  4. Critics of Gilmore contend that getting rid of the incarceration system would lead to disorganization. In this video interview, Gilmore addresses this concern, explaining that abolition “requires persistent organizing for what we need, organizing that’s already present in the efforts people cobble together to achieve access to schools, health care and housing, art and meaningful work, and freedom from violence and want.” What is the relationship between organization and disorganization as it is presented here? How do you see it play out in our present and our potential futures?
  5. Gilmore uses the term abolition interchangeably with ending the prison system. In the past, abolition has been used to refer to ending slavery in America. What do you think the significance of this terminology is? How does abolition extend to prisons? How would you define abolition based on Gilmore’s presentation?
  6. What did you learn about how Gilmore’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience?
  7. What skills or capacities does Gilmore suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Gilmore envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Additional reading: Gilmore recommends her recent works Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence and Beyond Bratton (p. 105, with Craig Gilmore).

Mindy Romero (October 16, 2020)

The political sociologist Mindy Romero delivered a convocation address on Friday, October 16.

  1. In this interview, Romero proposes a novel idea: integrating voting education into the American education system. What do you think Romero means by this, and what could be the impacts of such a program, on both voting and US politics in general? Do you think there would be political resistance to such a proposition, and why?
  2. Romero argues that the American education system should play a role in aiding voter turnout. What are some ways you can think of integrating voting into the education system?
  3. Romero is quoted in this article as predicting in 2020 “high turnout from young people in California and throughout the United States,” and saying that “because of the political context that we’re in … we’re seeing a lot of young people kind of galvanized, interested, following politics.” Do you agree with her prediction? What would you attribute this galvanization to?
  4. In these working papers, Romero and her fellow researchers found that, in early April 2020, a significant portion of the American population wanted to move to mail-in-ballots given the COVID-19 crisis. How would this change affect populations that are underrepresented in in-person voting, or people who are unfamiliar with voting by mail? Do you think public opinion has moved on this question since April, and why?
  5. In this interview with NBC, Romero discusses data that shows a dramatic increase in overall turnout in the 2018 midterm elections, as well as increases in the youth, Latinx, and Asian-American population turnouts. She asserts that this is partially or completely due to “homegrown mobilization efforts.” What do you think “homegrown mobilization efforts” look like, and how does this fit into the electoral process as you understand it? 
  6. What did you learn about how Romero’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience?
  7. What skills or capacities does Romero suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Romero envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Kevin Escudero (October 13, 2020)

Brown University Assistant Professor Kevin Escudero delivered a guest lecture on Tuesday, October 13 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The title of his presentation was “Organizing While Undocumented: Immigrant Youth’s Political Activism under the Law.”

  1. In this interview, Escudero describes the “legal and political barriers to organizing, namely the threat of deportation” that undocumented immigrant activists overcome in their social movement activism. Do you think these barriers have become more or less surmountable in the time of COVID-19, and why?
  2. In this Latinx Talk interview, Escudero conveys one of the main contexts in which his book functions: “given the fact that Latinx Studies and the broader fields of Ethnic Studies emerged from social movement struggle, this book underscores the continued importance of praxis, or connecting our scholarship to political action.” In your mind, how is scholarship connected to political action, and how should it be?
  3. Escudero has led several workshops with his students at the Providence Community Library. One of these workshops was a screening and discussion of Precious Knowledge, a 2011 documentary that follows the debate of whether Ethnic Studies should be taught at Tucson High School. Do you agree with the film’s tagline that Ethnic Studies are a “revolutionary education”? Are any of your courses at Carleton a “revolutionary education;” why or why not?
  4. What do you understand to be the challenges of organizing social movements among undocumented groups? Do Carleton social movements share any of these challenges?
  5. What did you learn about how Escudero’s individual life experience contributed to his academic learning experience?
  6. What skills or capacities does Escudero suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  7. What is the desired future that Escudero envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Robin Wall Kimmerer (October 9, 2020)

Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer delivered the Frank G. and Jean M. Chesley Lecture in Environmental Studies on Friday, October 9. The title of her presentation was “The Honorable Harvest: Indigenous Knowledge for Sustainability.”

Where not marked otherwise, these questions refer to Kimmerer’s essay “Learning the Grammar of Animacy,” which is found in her book Braiding Sweetgrass and available online through the Gould Library.

  1. In the essay “A Mother’s Work,” Kimmerer says, “The pond built my muscles, wove my baskets, mulched my garden, made my tea, and trellised my morning glories. Our lives became entwined in ways both material and spiritual. It’s been a balanced exchange: I worked on the pond and the pond worked on me, and together we made a good home.” How can we apply this account of reciprocity with nature to our relationships with community partners?
  2. Kimmerer says that “to be native to a place we must learn to speak its language,” and calls the sounds of nature her first language, after her mother’s heartbeat. According to Kimmerer, what is the difference between hearing the sounds of “the shhh of wind in needles, water trickling over rock,” and speaking the language of that place?
  3. Kimmerer talks about the need to “be bilingual between the lexicon of science and the grammar of animacy.” What assumptions do you think each of these languages might contain, and how might they be in conflict?
  4. The English language, Kimmerer says, “doesn’t give us many tools for incorporating respect for animacy. In English, you are either a human or a thing.” Kimmerer makes this point in the context of describing plants and animals, but how do you think this feature of the English language might connect to England’s history of colonization? 
  5. Kimmerer explains how using the pronoun “it” for animate beings like plants encourages us to see ourselves as separate and superior, and helps us justify our destruction of the natural world. In this article, she suggests we adopt the pronoun “ki” instead. How do you think our language conventions shape how we view and treat the world? What is our responsibility to the world in how we use language?
  6. What did you learn about how Kimmerer’s individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience?
  7. What skills or capacities does Kimmerer suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Kimmerer envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Alexander Heffner (October 2, 2020)

The journalist Alexander Heffner delivered a convocation address on Friday, October 2. The title of his presentation was “Civil Discourse in an Uncivil Age: The Quest for a Post-Partisan Citizenship.”

  1. Mr. Heffner’s work focuses substantially on the roles of social media and technology in civil discussion. How have these roles changed in recent years and in the time of COVID-19, and how has civil discussion changed as a result? 
  2. Heffner has spoken at length about how the age of virality has altered  how information is produced and consumed. In 2020, anyone can create content, but only a small portion of this content reaches the general population, often due to how many times it is shared and reposted.  What responsibility do we as individuals and as a community have to make sure that we are engaging with and contributing to reputable content from a variety of viewpoints? How, practically, can we do so?
  3. In this March 2016 interview, Heffner talks about how democracy has moved online and how the steps to involve young people in democracy have changed, such as the best ways to communicate with young people and the ideas young voters are passionate about. Are these issues still relevant today? Have they become more or less relevant in the past four years? 
  4. Consider Heffner’s main platform, The Open Mind, which has been called [a] radical approach to TV talk because of its focus on low-key, in-depth conversations. Why would this be considered radical, and what are the pros and cons of this approach?
  5. In this September 2020 interview, Heffner talks with University of Washington biologist Carl Bergstrom about how data has become politicized. How can data be politically convenient or inconvenient? How can scientists, politicians, and news consumers work together to maintain the integrity of data? 
  6. In the globalization of the 20th and 21st centuries, and in the time of COVID, does any country’s civil discourse and political atmosphere stay contained within national  borders?
  7. What did you learn about how Heffner’s individual life experience contributed to his academic learning experience?
  8. What skills or capacities does Heffner suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  9. What is the desired future that Heffner envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?

Stacey Abrams (September 14, 2020)

The political leader, nonprofit CEO, and author Stacey Abrams delivered the opening convocation address on September 14.

  1. Abrams is a very intentional communicator across lines of difference. What tactics does she use, and how effective are they?
  2. How does Abrams respond to the polarization of political discourse in the United States? Does she seek to perpetuate or remedy it?
  3. In this profile, Abrams suggests that the political polarization in the United States is an effect of media polarization. What lessons can be taken from her convocation address about how citizens should respond to each of these issues?
  4. In this profile, published in May 2019, Abrams suggests reparations for African Americans and Native Americans is becoming a more credible possibility because people are now willing to have conversations about it. What does this suggest about the role community action plays in public discourse, and how do you think this discourse has changed in the past year?
  5. In this interview, Abrams describes how, since 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, access to voting has been increasingly restricted, particularly among poor communities and communities of color, and that voter suppression works both by blocking access and by making people feel defeated. Abrams started Fair Fight to help combat this. What progress has Fair Fight made, and what are its limits?
  6. What did you learn about how Abrams’ individual life experience contributed to her academic learning experience?
  7. What skills or capacities does Abrams suggest are needed to create a more just society? Do you share any of those skills or capacities?
  8. What is the desired future that Abrams envisions? In what ways is it similar or different to the future you envision?