University of Delaware

Feb. 26: The Difficult Conversation

One-day symposium to examine race and social justice in America


4:16 p.m., Feb. 11, 2015--It can be awkward, even scary. 

As the University of Delaware strives to build a stronger and inclusive campus community by having real conversations — on critical issues such as race, gender equality and social justice — the ability to truly engage each other, especially on such sensitive matters, is often limited by fear, anxiety and apprehension. No one wants to be perceived as racist, sexist or bigoted. The risk of conflict can make anyone uneasy. 

Events Stories

June 5: Blue Hen 5K

University of Delaware graduates planning to attend Alumni Weekend are encouraged to register for the annual Blue Hen 5K walk and run, which will be held Sunday morning, June 5.

June 6-9: Food and culture series

The 20th annual June Lecture Series at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UD in Wilmington will be held June 6-9. Titled 'June a la Carte,' this year's program focuses on great political documents, feminism, world politics and a Newark cuisine sampler.

So how do the members of this community honestly connect with one another in meaningful, constructive ways?

The vice provost for diversity, in collaboration with members of the Post-Ferguson Planning Committee, has announced a one-day symposium on Thursday, Feb. 26, that will focus on race and social justice. This effort aims to encourage open dialogue in our academic community about current social issues that affect our world — and our campus.  

In other words, it's time to have the “Difficult Conversation.”

“Much in the same way we have undertaken the #VoicesofUDel campaign, it is our responsibility, as a learning community, to engage in civil and thought-provoking conversations about the America we wish to create,” said Vice Provost for Diversity Carol Henderson. “This symposium is just one of many activities developed on our campus to create safe space for understanding our interconnectedness.”

Tensions across the nation between underserved communities and the police, clashes on immigration in the political arena, and the influence of media on how we view each other are some of the issues the symposium will explore. More important, explained Henderson, “We desire to understand the impact these issues have on individuals and our relationships with one another across campus.” 

The daylong symposium, “The Difficult Conversation: Race and Social Justice in America," comprises three dynamic modules. A featured lecture by noted historian Jelani Cobb follows in the evening. 

Symposium schedule 

9 a.m.: Doors open, Multipurpose Room C, Trabant University Center (TUC)

9:30 - 11:30 a.m.: Film, The Streets of Harlem, TUC Multipurpose Room C. The screening of this documentary film -- directed by Yasser A. Payne , associate professor of Black American Studies -- will be followed by a discussion. The film is an ethnographic study of the impact of street life on black men across generations, as a means to examine structural inequalities.  

Noon - 1:30 p.m.: Workshop, "Stand, Speak and Support: Being an Ally for Others," TUC Multipurpose Room C. Adam Cantley, associate dean of students, and Emily Bonistell Postel, director of ADVANCE -- IT, will lead a discussion about alliance building around social issues that affect the UD community This workshop will discuss how the members of this community can participate in creating a more inclusive campus environment. 

2 - 4 p.m.: The Arts, “Resistance, Activism and the Arts: An Experience in Self-Expression.”  TUC Multipurpose Room C. Brooklynn Hitchens and James Church will facilitate this conversation. Hitchens and Church will blend spoken word performance and open dialogue to share creative ways that link activism with the arts. Afterward, members of the audience will be given the opportunity to create original pieces of art.

Doors for the symposium will open at 9 a.m., Feb. 26.  All events are free and open to the public. Breakfast and lunch will be served for the first two modules. Space is limited, and advance registration is recommended by writing to

Black History Month lecture

The day will culminate with an evening lecture sponsored by the Department of Black American Studies, featuring noted historian Jelani Cobb, who is associate professor of history and director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut. He will speak on the “Struggles for Black Freedom in the 21st Century.” 

Cobb is a leading scholar on the African American experience and a frequent contributor to news outlets providing comprehensive analysis of race, politics and culture. The lecture will begin 7 p.m. in the TUC Multipurpose Rooms.

Article by Jawanza Ali Keita

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