In response to the turmoil that began in Charlottesville, Suffolk University is sponsoring a yearlong series of workshops, speakers and panel discussions that will address both the current volatile landscape in America and the history that has brought the nation to this point.

The initiative, “Before and After Charlottesville: Inclusion and Freedom in Dialogue,” sponsored by Suffolk’s Public Policy and Practice HUB, includes public events as well as activities aimed at addressing the instructional and institutional issues that could surface within the Suffolk community after the shocking events in Charlottesville. 

In the current environment, faculty and students may find themselves especially worried about how to discuss these events—as well as the much wider history of race and racism for which Charlottesville is a symbol and symptom—without provoking further divisiveness. Many in the University community hope to find ways to discuss these events and their historical context in ways that will be constructive and illuminating, perhaps even healing. The challenge is to balance commitment to academic freedom and a shared spirit of free discussion with Suffolk’s long-standing principles of inclusiveness and welcome, especially to those otherwise marginalized in society. 

Acting President Marisa Kelly and Acting Provost Sebastián Royo began the series with a faculty forum, “Before and After Charlottesville: Balancing Free Speech with Inclusivity and Human Dignity.” And Suffolk’s Center for Teaching and Scholarly Excellence is offering workshops addressing issues such as navigating difficult conversations while creating a positive climate and enhancing student learning.

Fall 2017 events and activities

Before the Trees Was Strange

Screening and discussion from noon-2 p.m., storytelling workshop from 2:15-4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, Sargent Hall, 120 Tremont St., Boston, Room 425

Derek Burrows will screen and discuss this acclaimed film, a personal documentary about race and his family, and love and forgiveness. Burrows, a master storyteller, modern troubadour, filmmaker, web designer and photographer, will conduct storytelling workshops on the meaning of race. He is a co-founder, with Suffolk Philosophy Chair Greg Fried, of the “Mirror of Race” project. Before the Trees Was Strange was  screened recentlyat the Toronto International Film Festival. Participants are welcome at either or both portions of the program.

Gender Identity and Expression-Based Housing Discrimination

12:15-2 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, in the Sargent Hall, 120 Tremont St., Boston, faculty dining room.

William Berman and Jamie Langowski of the Law School faculty will present "Transcending Prejudice: Gender Identity and Expression-Based Discrimination in the Metro Boston Rental Housing Market" from  The Law School's Housing Discrimination Testing Program's first-of-its-kind empirical research study revealed that transgender and gender nonconforming people were 27 percent less likely to be shown additional areas of an apartment complex, 31 percent less likely to be offered an incentive to rent, 12 percent more likely to be told negative comments about the apartment or neighborhood, and 9 percent more likely to be quoted a higher rental price. The authors will discuss the study and the law. 

Gerrymandering before the United States Supreme Court

4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, Sargent Hall, 120 Tremont St., Boston, Room 425

Harvard Law School Professor Charles Fried will deliver a talk, “Making Democracy Real: From Racial to Political Gerrymanders.” Fried will discuss the most important gerrymandering case in more than a decade, which is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case involves district lines in Wisconsin that challengers say were drawn unconstitutionally to benefit Republicans. Fried was solicitor general of the United States from 1985 to 1989 and an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from 1995 to 1999. His areas of interest include civil rights and civil liberties legislation and litigation, Constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Films and discussion

In October, the Black Studies Program and the History Department will present two films in Suffolk University’s Modern Theater. Each film is about an hour long and will be followed by a panel discussion with people who were involved in making it. The moderator for both evenings is Atyia Martin of the Mayor’s Office of Culture and Arts.

Beyond the Fields – Slavery at Middleton Place

A Middleton Place Foundation Production
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, Modern Theatre, 525 Washington St, Boston

This documentary production of the Middleton Place Foundation in Charleston, South Carolina, illuminates the lives led and the contributions made by some seven generations of people owned by the Middleton family in the 18th and 19th centuries. The foundation has long been engaged in research and documentation that informed the interpretation of the history of the families – both black and white – that built and occupied Middleton Place from its founding in 1741. The panel is expected to include Suffolk Professor Robert A. Bellinger and representatives from Middleton Place.

The Birth of a Movement

Northern Light Productions
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, Modern Theatre, 525 Washington St, Boston

In 1915, Boston-based African American newspaper editor and activist William M. Trotter waged a battle against D.W. Griffith’s technically groundbreaking but notoriously Ku Klux Klan-friendly The Birth of a Nation, unleashing a fight that still rages today about race relations, media representation, and the power and influence of Hollywood. Birth of a Movement, directed by: Bestor Cram and Susan Gray and based on Dick Lehr's book The Birth of a Movement: How Birth of a Nation Ignited the Battle for Civil Rights, captures the backdrop to this prescient clash among human rights, freedom of speech, and a changing media landscape.

The panel will include Suffolk History Professor Robert A. Bellinger, History Professor Dolita Cathcart of Wheaton College, film directors Bestor Cram and Susan Gray, and Michael Curry, past president of Boston NAACP.

On Our Knees: Sport, Race, and America

12:15 – 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, Sargent Hall, 120 Tremont St., Boston, fifth floor, Blue Sky Lounge

Visiting Professor Drew Hyland, Philosophy, will deliver a talk raising some of the issues and controversies surrounding the recent phenomenon of athletes "taking the knee" during the national anthem as a protest against police violence against blacks. He will discuss some of the historical background as well in the hope of encouraging an open discussion of the issues and events. Hyland is an emeritus professor at Trinity College. One of his areas of expertise is the philosophy of sport, including the role of race in sport. 

Race and Representation in the Visual Arts

6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, Sargent Hall, 120 Tremont St., Boston, first-floor function room

Broadcast journalist and radio presenter Callie Crossley moderates a panel discussion on who owns the black image, a particularly potent topic following the recent controversy regarding Dana Schutz’s depiction of Emmett Till. The panel includes artists Alexandria Smith and James Montford; Vera Grant, director of the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art at Harvard University; and Camilo Alvarez, owner of the critically acclaimed Boston art gallery Samson.

Slavery in the North

Scholar Marc Ross, who has a long-standing interest in conflict theory, conflict management, and the politics of ethnicity and race, will deliver two talks: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, Sargent Hall, 120 Tremont St., Boston, fifth floor, Blue Sky Lounge

Why Didn’t I Ever Learn About This? What Forgetting about Enslavement in the North Means Today

Although slavery existed in all the Northern colonies and early American states and did not end in some parts until 1865, the collective memories of slavery in the region faded quickly. Slavery came to be seen as “only a Southern problem.” In recent years, as a result of the work of historians and a few local political activists and organizations, popular awareness of the North’s past is returning in ways that are relevant to how we understand contemporary race issues and conflicts in the United States.  Professor Robert Bellinger, History, will be the faculty discussant.

Symbols and Statues—Public Spaces and Reconciliation 

Ross and a faculty panel of three to five members will discuss the topic.

Ross is the Bryn Mawr College William Rand Kenan, Jr. professor emeritus. He has done research in more than 10 countries looking at both success and failures in ethnic conflict management. In recent years his research has emphasized the role of culture in conflict, from the framing of the parties in conflict to the ways that conflicts progress and are played out.