PHR/IS Speaker Series – Students Engaging in #SocialJustice

Welcome back to the 255. This week we wanted to highlight the ongoing collaborations between the Politics & Human Rights and International Studies Departments. This semester the departments have co-hosted events that create dialogue around social justice and activism. In the past, the departments worked with student organizations like the Bedford Hills Program and Social Sciences’ Assembly, forming MMC cohorts to attend marches, events, and protests. In these unprecedented times, the departments still wanted to host these events and create community in virtual spaces. We took the time this week to chat with Associate Professor of Politics & Human Rights, Marnie Brady, to ask questions regarding this series.

  1. What is the PHR/IS Event Series? What inspired the faculty to create this series?

The PHR/IS Event Series is based around being responsive to urgency of our times. As you know this summer we experienced the velocity of the movement for Black Lives Matter. Our departments held a Town Hall with students where they not only showed interest but demanded that we, as a department, engage in these questions and conversations of our time through the perspectives of our fields of study. What we do in our departments is close analyses of these events looking at the contexts and conditions in which they take place and the people and movements that create social change both domestically and internationally. And so, that led to the faculty of Politics & Human Rights and International Studies reaching out and activating the connections to those who we know have been crucial to movement related work both in and beyond New York City. We became active in creating this speaker series which includes voices of people who are working around criminal justice, indigenous rights, land justice, birth and reproductive justice, and questions around social practice and its relation to the arts. We created this series so that we can challenge ourselves to think about the world that we want to see and how we already are actively participating in molding that world.

2. How have you been engaging students with in the virtual space? What challenges have you faced and how have you addressed them?

We are making the event series integral with our departments’ curricula. These are not just individual conversations but rather have been built into many of our PHR courses. This allows for us to continue the dialogue in our class community and allows for students to be able to collectively participate. Rather than it being an additional requirement, it was important for us as a department to make this integral with courses students were taking, so we can continue to foster these conversations beyond the events’ settings. Not only are students actively involved in the series, but also they can think reflexively on how differently guest speakers relate to the topics of our classes and topics. This has been a tremendous opportunity to allow for guest speakers and students all over the world to enter a virtual space and engage in with us. This is a positive feature of the virtual world in that if this were in person, there are many challenges we would face like for example organizing the conversation around land and environmental justice between MMC’s Dejah Bradshaw and leaders of the Landless Movement in Brazil. We wanted to make sure that our connections and networks were still an integral part of our classes and these events. We have had some amazing guest speakers and look forward to the many more to come.

3. Have you had a favorite event throughout the series?

Although I have not been able to go to all of them, I do have to say that the Constitution and Citizenship Day Event was exceptional. It combined the powerful testimony of an MMC alum, Jasmine Valentine, with the powerful leadership of the Bedford Hills Club, Viviana Metzgar . It was wonderful to see a student leader in dialogue with a returning citizen from Bedford Hills talking about these issues and the ways that MMC students in Manhattan can support their fellow colleagues and peers at Bedford Hills and Taconic. That, to me, was really powerful especially within the context of thinking about the issue of criminal justice reform and abolitionist politics at a time of this insurgent Black Lives Matter Movement. That event was so close to home because it is about our students’ lives, at Bedford Hills and Taconic, and it was so wonderful to have an alum from Bedford Hills to speak to those issues.

Thanks to Professor Brady for taking the time to answer our questions. There is no activism without community, and our division will continue to build and grow a community that fosters care and change for one another, and our city/world writ large. We look forward to seeing the rest of the events unfold as the semester progresses. Thank you for joining us again at the 255. We would lastly like to remind you all to be kind, stay safe, and wear a mask when you VOTE!

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