Jeffrey Burch from the Open Society Institute-Baltimore was kind enough to share his thoughts on the speaker series, Talking About Race, which was funded by the Maryland Humanities Council.
“Almost a year ago, the Open Society Institute-Baltimore (OSI) kicked off its speaker series, Talking About Race. The series, aimed at creating dialog about how we, in the U.S., talk (or do not talk) about issues surrounding race, was thought to be very timely, especially in light of the historic election that had just occurred.”
“A question on many minds was, “Now that we have elected an African American president, are we post-racial?” That idea, though lofty, certainly deserved reflection and further discussion. While discussions on issues on race had occurred in our city, OSI-Baltimore, a leader and proponent for social equality, decided to produce a full series of speaking events that, while pertinent to our entire nation, would obviously resonate with the citizens of the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area.”
“What was expected to be a year-long series with five to six planned speaker events, became a series with nine events, spawned a radio series on WYPR’s Maryland Morning Program, and inspired this Web site www.storiesaboutrace.org for people to share their stories and experiences. Looking to the future, it is expected that the series will continue at least through 2011.”
“This project’s growth has been exciting to watch; the burgeoning interest from people wanting to be a part of it—presenters and audience members alike—is extremely encouraging. Support from individual donors and other sponsors, including the Maryland Humanities Council, has helped fund costs to bring scholars, advocates, authors, artists and humanitarians to our city to share their ideas on varied topics about race.”
“The impressive list of speakers has included people like Ben Jealous, Executive Director of the NAACP; Gwen Ifill of Washington Week; civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill; Spelman College president Beverly Daniel Tatum; authors Gerald Torres, Rich Benjamin, and Tim Wise; filmmakers Elvis Mitchell, Timothy Greenfield Sanders, and Jennifer Taylor; and a special presentation by the Stoop Storytelling Series. They are but a few of the guests that have simultaneously provided entertainment and thought-provoking commentary for the audience.”
“Just as impressive as the speakers is the audience—a diverse, fascinating blend of concerned and involved citizens from all classes and walks of life. They are civic leaders, activists, policy makers, students, educators, parents and children; members of our community—blue-collar and white-collar—who want to learn more about, and become part of, a better climate for the future of race relations here and throughout our nation. They attend because they do want to talk and share their perspectives; they want to hear what others have to say and to understand what role they can play in carrying the dialog forward.”
“If you haven’t experienced one of these programs, please mark your calendar for Tuesday, April 20, 7 p.m., at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, to hear Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and Renée Hutchins, University of Maryland Law School professor, as they consider, Is Justice Possible in a Race Biased Society? They will discuss how race affects attitudes and outcomes in the U.S. criminal justice system, certainly a topic that has great impact for our city. This event is free and open to the public. Please visit www.osi-baltimore.org for further information.”