November 04, 2010

CWRU Social Justice Institute Launches Think Tank Event

Case Western Reserve University’s new Social Justice Institute is about “understanding and addressing the root causes of social injustice and developing innovative solutions,” according to Rhonda Y. Williams, the Institute’s founding director and also associate professor of history at the university.

To develop new insights on critical social justice issues that have commanded the past and continue to shape the present, the university Institute will host the two-day Social Justice, Race and Profiling:  An Intergenerational Think Tank on Nov. 19 and 20. 

John Powell will give
the keynote address
at the Social Justice
think tank.

The Social Justice Institute and its alliance-based initiatives are an integral part of the university’s five-year strategic plan called Forward Thinking. It has support with seed funding from the Provost’s Interdisciplinary Alliance Investment Grant to advance education, research and community engagement, as well as to inspire the investigation of and develop solutions to societal problems. 

Under Williams’ directorship, a leadership team of 12 members, including faculty and staff who represent schools and centers from across campus, are working together to advance the Institute’s work.

Campus leaders will work on and off campus to support innovative and synergistic research, scholarship and pedagogy; build support for social justice; and forge productive relationships across boundaries within the university and with the broader community.

The think tank, which is sponsored in the spirit of Fisk University’s Charles S. Johnson Race Relations Institute, is one way to bring people together to start the conversation, Williams said.

Some highlights of the Social Justice Institute’s think tank include:

  • An Intergenerational Evening of Art & Justice, featuring a special presentation by Bernice Johnson Reagon, singer, composer, cultural historian, and freedom and justice activist for nearly half a century.  Reagon will present on Saturday evening, 1960s freedom songs with commentary, at the Church of the Covenant. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Following her special presentation, Reagon and Hip-Hop cultural critic Bakari Kitwana will engage in a dialogue.
  • John A. Powell, Director of Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, will give the keynote lunch address Saturday at Thwing Ballroom.

Four plenary sessions, one on Friday evening and three others that will run consecutively on Saturday, will examine the countless ways that injustice is manifested through the historic and ongoing profiling of racial and ethnic communities, and provide a forum for discussing lessons learned, as well as methods for challenging such injustices – whether through research, policy, advocacy and social protest, or art. 

  • History Makers:  Xernona Clayton, formerly of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, author of I’ve Been Marching All the Time, and founder and president of Trumpet Awards Foundation; and Case Western Reserve alumnus Donald Freeman, founding member of the Revolutionary Action Movement, education activist and former director of League Park Community Center.
  • Immigration:  Chandra Bhatnagar with the ACLU’s Human Rights Program; Veronica Dahlberg, who is the executive director of HOLA; and John Flores, assistant professor of Chicano/social justice history at Case Western Reserve.


  • Criminal Justice:  Heather A. Thompson, author of the forthcoming Attica: Race, Rebellion and the Rise of Law and Order in America and associate professor of history at Temple University; Ed Little, Cuyahoga County criminal justice and re-entry consultant; and Lewis Katz, professor of law at Case Western Reserve.
  • Redlining to Housing Foreclosure: Gregory D. Squires professor of sociology and public administration, George Washington University; Claudia Coulton, Lillian Harris Professor of Urban Social Research and co-director of the Center of Urban Poverty and Community Development at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve; and Anthony Houston, program manager for economic development, City of East Cleveland, Ohio.

Event co-sponsors include the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, and the following campus offices and programs: Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, Center for Community Partnerships, Center for Social Justice at the Law School, Ethnic Studies Program, Flora Stone Mather Center for Women, Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and President’s Advisory Council on Minorities.

The conference is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required.  Tickets for Reagon and Kitwana are $25 for individuals and $50 for patrons.  Call 368.2904 to register and for tickets.

All the plenaries are in Ford Auditorium. The keynote lunch address is in Thwing Ballroom. The culminating Saturday night event is at Church of the Covenant.

Posted by: David Wilson, November 4, 2010 11:44 AM | News Topics: Energy

Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.