Plantation Weddings and the Arc of Antebellum Desire

Kimberly J. BrownMLK Visiting Assistant Professor, Women’s & Gender Studies and by Literature at MIT

Thursday, December 7, 2017 @ 12-1:30 pm
MIT Room E51-095
Lunch provided, please RSVP to wgs@mit.edu

Plantations wedding venues, particularly in the US South, spatially reconstruct antebellum slave mansions as serene sites of joy. This talk will examine the politics of race, gender, and patriarchy that center on the unfreedom of others.

 

 

Double Elegy: African American Cultural Production and the Poetics of Loss

Kimberly J. BrownMLK Visiting Assistant Professor, Women’s & Gender Studies and by Literature at MIT

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 5-6:30 pm
MIT Room 14N-417

This talk considers the elegy as the doubling mechanism of African American cultural engagement. At once firmly situated within and excluded from a visible poetics of loss, black writers and artists pursue alternate structures of memory-making and mourning rituals. These include music, photography, and performance. Ultimately, these multivalent productions of mourning allow for the possibility of consolation, but resolution is always in flux. The talk will examine the fissures and fixations of black suffering.


 

 

From Williams Magazine, Fall 2017

Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi by Kenda Mutongi
The University of Chicago Press, 2017

 

Kenda Mutongi was walking along a street in Nairobi, thinking about what she’d like to research for her second book, when she realized the answer was right in front of her. “Matatus are everywhere, but we don’t know anything about them,” says the history professor. “All we know is their bad reputation.”

Matatu is the word used in Kenya for the minibuses ubiquitous throughout Africa. In Nairobi, they transport more than 2 million people per day, from commuters on their way to work to mothers bringing children to doctors’ appointments and kids headed to school. But matatu drivers and conductors are considered dangerous and are blamed for much of what can feel like the chaos of this large city.

“They are looked down upon and thought to be corrupt,” says Mutongi. “Foreigners consider matatus too dangerous to ride, and they write them off as unimportant. But so many people depend on them.”

In her new book, Matatu, Mutongi traces the history of this industry. “I hope my book helps dismantle the notion that the only way Africans can earn money is if an NGO comes in and sets people to making beads, jewelry or baskets,” she says. “We need to hear more stories like those of the people in the matatu industry, who have created a highly profitable business.”

Mutongi, who is originally from Kenya, has been teaching courses in African history at Williams since 1995. Her first book, Worries of the Heart: Widows, Family and Community in Kenya, was published in 2007.

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The Gender/Race Imperative: The Future of Title IX

Anita Hill participated in CNN’s town hall titled “Tipping Point: Sexual Harassment in America” on November 9, 2017.

In light of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in the media and government, Hill said that the strong focus on sexual misconduct is like nothing she’s ever seen and she’s hopeful that it will “bring lasting change.” She also stated that, although the believability factor needs to shift in all sexual misconduct cases, marginalized groups are met with an additional level of skepticism.
It’s been 26 years since Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was her boss. Today, Thomas sits on the Supreme Court bench.

 

 

 

 

Undoing ‘Generations of Rank Discrimination’: Inclusive Communities and the Future of Anti-Bias Forensics

Anita HillMLK Visiting Professor of Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) 

Tuesday, October 17
11:45am-1pm
MIT Room 6-104 (Chipman Room)

In June, in a decision that promises to energize American desegregation efforts, the U.S. Supreme Court endorsed a broad interpretation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The Court confirmed that the law proscribes not only overt, intentional acts of discrimination but also policies and practices that are “fair in form, but discriminatory in operation.” I will discuss how the Court’s decision could change the way housing, employment and education bias cases are argued and proven. The talk’s title is inspired by the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who during the case’s oral arguments reminded listeners that the “grand goal” of the Fair Housing Act was to “undo generations of rank discrimination.


This talk will be accessible to a general audience. We ask that you register here. If you are able to attend, please reply to Shauna Bush-Fenty (sfenty@mit.edu) with any dietary restrictions, accessibility considerations or other needs.

 

The Gender/Race Imperative: The Future of Title IX

Anita Hill will be moderating a series of presentations and workshops entitled The Gender/Race Imperative. It aims to revive awareness of the broad capacity of Title IX, the crucial law mandating equal education opportunities for women. The hope is that the series will kick start inquiry to foster legal, policy, and social reforms that enable success in schools and workplaces for girls and women of all races and economic backgrounds. To engage and educate MIT and the broader Boston area community on the role of Title IX in education, particularly for STEM, MIT brings engineers and other scientists together in conversation with lawyers and social scientists to develop multidimensional strategies for promoting equity in STEM.


First in the series is “The Future of Title X”
Tuesday October 3rd, 2017
Doors open at 3:30PM
Presentation starts at 4:00PM
Walker Memorial – Building 50

Open to the public, no registration required

Hosted by:
  • Muriel Medard – Cecil H. Green Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, Research Laboratory of Electronics, MIT
  •  Anita Hill – MIT Martin Luther King Fellow, University Professor of Law, Public Policy and Women’s Studies, Heller Graduate School of Policy and Management, Brandeis University
Guest speakers:
  • Catherine Lhamon – Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Former Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
  • Deborah Slaner Larkin – Chief, Advocacy Officer at the Women’s Sports Foundation
  • Fatima Goss Graves – Director of the National Women’s Law Center
Lhamon, Larkin, and Graves are national authorities on Title IX, each of whom brings a different perspective on how this civil rights law works and how to strengthen its effectiveness.  In this first in a series of programs, these speakers will familiarize the audience with the many ways which Title IX insures that no person “shall be excluded from participation, in be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”  As well, each speaker will provide an assessment of Title IX’s influence going forward.

 

 

 

Garnette Cadogan: The Future of New Writing

The Future of New Writing: Introducing Freeman’s Issue Four

Garnette Cadogan is among the 29 writers whose work “will continue to be traveling into the future—perhaps even define it,” according to Freeman’s. The literary journal is a new biannual of unpublished writing by former Granta editor and National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) president John Freeman, which brings together the best new fiction, nonfiction, and poetry around a single theme.

Says Freeman:

On occasion here, writers allow us to see them making themselves, like an artist painting his own portrait into a large fresco. In a moving personal essay, Garnette Cadogan reveals how a childhood of step-parental abuse forced him to think of himself as a character destined for abuse or revenge.

The Future of New Writing will be launched in New York City, Thursday October 5th at the New School, 66 West 12th Street, with Garnette Cadogan, Elaine Castillo, Valeria Luiselli and Dinaw Mengestu. Tickets are available here.

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EVENT

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
11:45 am – 1 pm
MIT Room 6-104 (Chipman Room)

Please join us in our first 2017-2018 monthly MLK Scholars luncheon on Tuesday, September 19 in 6-104. All members of the MIT community are welcome!

Lunch will be served. Please inform us of any dietary restrictions or preferences.

From Truthdig, 9 June 2017: 

Although headlines about Russia and James Comey have dominated mainstream media for most of Trump’s presidency thus far, damage to democracy has been going on behind the scenes. Advocates of net neutrality are watching in horror as Ajit Pai, head of the Federal Communications Commission, works to destroy net neutrality and other consumer protection regulations.

“Most Americans are not able to get the information that they need to keep themselves safe.” So says Mark Lloyd [MLK Visiting Scholar 2002-04], the associate general counsel and chief diversity officer at the Federal Communications Commission in 2009-2012. Lloyd, also an author, a professor of communications at USC’s Annenberg School and an Emmy Award-winning journalist, sat down with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer on his KCRW podcast “Scheer Intelligence” for a conversation on media consolidation and consumer protection.

Lloyd has written for Truthdig about media consolidation and the communications crisis happening in America, and he expands on these ideas in his discussion with Scheer.

 

 

This communications crisis started “before Trump,” Lloyd says. He explains how a lack of effective telecommunications affects health, finances and other crucial factors of Americans’ lives.

“In the U.S., our priorities are to make sure that people are making money in communications,” Lloyd continues, “and not making sure that people are safe with the communications services that they use.”

“So we’re not even talking about whether they’re being informed about trade with China or the war in Syria,” Scheer notes. “We’re talking about, actually, what they need for their well-being.”

The two go on to discuss the FCC, where Lloyd once worked as a lawyer. Lloyd explained that, while at the FCC, he tried to make communications services more accessible to all—but then the 2016 election happened.

He goes on to break down the current battle over net neutrality:

The challenge is that organizations like Google, like Netflix, like Facebook—they don’t really provide you with internet service. What they provide you with is the entertainment, with the application that you need to search the internet, with your ability to connect with your friends and things like that because you’re connected to an application. Internet service providers—Comcast, AT&T, Verizon—those folks actually provide you with internet service. That’s where the rubber meets the road. So Google, Facebook, these other companies, they don’t want to have to pay any more than they have to to have access to you.

Lloyd also explains the constitutional origins of U.S. communications and delves into media consolidation in the U.S.

“There’s nothing radically new here,” Lloyd says of the Trump administration’s stance on net neutrality and consumer protections. “The big challenge is that we have an FCC that is not really even looking at the impact of media consolidation, on what it means to local communities.”

Read the full transcript for the interview here.

 

 

Former MLK Visiting Professors Christopher Rose and Sylvester James Gates, Jr. are part of Brown University’s diversity and inclusion action plan, which is committed to doubling the number of faculty from historically underrepresented groups, two initiatives are already attracting both early-career and experienced scholars to Brown.


From “New programs seek to diversify faculty at Brown and beyond,” News from Brown, 19 May 2017

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Just over a year ago, Brown University launched into the work of activating an ambitious, far-reaching plan to create a more diverse and inclusive academic community. Among the plan’s chief priorities was a multifaceted effort to double the number of faculty members from historically underrepresented groups by 2022.

Two initiatives related to that effort — the Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship Program and the Provost’s Visiting Professors Program — are in full swing, each representing a distinct element in a broader strategy to boost faculty diversity. The first aims to widen the pipeline of young scholars from diverse backgrounds who will compete for tenure-track positions at Brown and elsewhere in the future. The other focuses more immediately on the present by attracting distinguished senior scholars from historically underrepresented groups to Brown for temporary appointments.

And both are already producing results.

“Diversity is a cornerstone of academic excellence,” Brown President Christina Paxson said. “Through a set of distinctive and purposeful programs, we are seeing success at increasing faculty diversity at all levels — from the most recent recipients of Ph.D.s to academics who are at the peak of their careers as educators and scholars.”

Liza Cariaga-Lo, the University’s vice president for academic development, diversity and inclusion, said that cultivating a more diverse faculty is essential to the creation of an academic community that embodies the social and intellectual diversity of the world and offers students and scholars the highest level of academic excellence.

“These programs are already helping us to meet the goals set out in our diversity and action plan by addressing faculty hiring at multiple points in the academic career pipeline,” she said.

Developing young scholars

In 2015 — a semester before the debut of the full Pathways to Diversity and Inclusionaction plan — Brown launched the Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship Program to support the development of early career scholars who add intellectual diversity to the campus.

From the start of the first cohort of six fellows, Cariaga-Lo said, the program’s specific emphasis has been recruiting scholars from historically underrepresented groups who might eventually compete for tenure-track faculty positions at the University. During their time at Brown, each fellow spends two semesters teaching a course of their own design and another two semesters wholly devoted to their research. With each new cohort, the University will bring in up to six new scholars, she noted.

Attracting accomplished researchers

While the Presidential Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship Program offers opportunities for emerging scholars, the Provost’s Visiting Professors Program is designed to bring to Brown those who are already highly accomplished. All come from historically underrepresented groups for periods ranging from six to 24 months.

For the current 2016-17 academic year, Brown welcomed the first cohort of visitors: renowned physicists Sylvester James Gates Jr. and John A. Johnson, and accomplished epidemiologist Ronald Aubert.

The aim is to broaden the excellence of Brown faculty while helping to build a critical mass of diverse voices in the University’s academic community, said Provost Richard M. Locke.

“We were very pleased to draw such exceptional scholars to Brown as part of this program,” Locke said. “I know our students and faculty benefited greatly from their interactions with the first cohort of visitors, and we hope to see that continue as the program moves forward.”

Gates, a theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland, is a recipient of the National Medal of Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He also served a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology during the Obama administration.

He says several factors made him want to be a part of the visiting professors program at Brown.

“Brown has long had a reputation for its flexibility in educating undergraduates and for having fantastic students, and I wanted to be involved with that,” he said. “But the other thing is that Brown is making some historic efforts at being more inclusive, and that also is something that fascinated me.”

Gates says when he thinks about the value of programs like this, he’s reminded of something a female colleague once said to him.

“She said it really matters when a young woman sees someone who looks like her at the blackboard,” Gates recalled. “It provides real encouragement for people from groups who have been traditionally locked out of some of these positions.”

Chris Rose, a professor of engineering and associate dean of the faculty for special initiatives, helps oversee the program. He said it has been gratifying to see the first cohort engaging with students and fellow faculty members throughout campus.

“We’re not the first university to have this type of program, but we wanted to structure ours differently,” Rose said. “From the beginning, we aimed for a program that was outward-facing, where visitors weren’t cloistered within a single academic department, but instead were making connections across campus. To do that, we need to bring people to campus who not only have great depth in their interests, but great breadth as well.”

Aubert, chief science officer for a health care consulting firm and an adjunct associate professor at the University of North Carolina, has a dual visiting appointment in the Brown University School of Public Health and with the University’s Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA). So in addition to teaching and mentoring students in public health, he also gave informal talks with students and faculty at CSREA on issues of race and ethnicity as they relate to the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the U.S. He’ll continue his work over he summer, developing campus-wide programming on issues of public health and race.

Gates co-taught a physics class, gave a colloquium on science-based public policy at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and served as co-director of Brown’s Presidential Scholars Program, which provides research opportunities and support for low-and-middle-income undergraduates.

Amid all that, Gates still had time to continue his research, which he said benefitted from the collaborative ethos he found at Brown.

“What I’m working on is a strange combination of physics, mathematics, computer science and even a bit of evolutionary biology,” Gates said. “There’s a real spirit of interdisciplinarity here that enabled my work.”

Rose says he looks forward to the program’s continued success, along with the suite of related programs aimed at creating a more diverse academic community at Brown.

“There’s a constant drumbeat of these kinds of programs at Brown growing out of the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, along with the institutional will to see them through,” Rose said. “In terms of making meaningful progress in diversity and inclusion, I think Brown is the place to watch.”

[Editor’s Note: In late May 2017, shortly after publication of this story, Sylvester James Gates Jr. agreed to become a permanent member of Brown’s faculty.]

 

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