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Special Lecture Previews

CVA hosts VMFA curator Valerie Cassel Oliver for annual Plevin Lecture

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JORDYN RUSSELL – STAFF WRITER

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Chautauqua Visual Arts will spotlight curator Valerie Cassel Oliver for the annual Leon and Gloria Plevin Family Museum Director Lecture at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10 on the CHQ Assembly Virtual Porch. The annual lecture series was established in honor of the late Leon Plevin, husband to artist Gloria Plevin and avid supporter of the visual arts at Chautauqua.

Hailing from Houston, Oliver attended the University of Texas at Austin, going on to attend graduate school at Howard University. Presently, she serves as the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Richmond-based Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, one of the largest art museums in North America. 

Throughout her professional career, Oliver also acted as a senior curator for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston for 16 years, where her work honed in on valuable topics such as inclusivity, representation and spotlighting artists of different social and cultural environments. Additionally, she served as the director of the Visiting Artist Program at the School of Art Institute of Chicago, and a program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts.

As an experienced curator, Oliver has organized numerous exhibitions including various solo exhibitions such as “Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped (2017),” and “Angel Otero: Everything and Nothing (2016).”

In 2021, Oliver curated the unprecedented exhibition “The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse,” reemphasizing the importance of open dialogue in regard to urgent themes here in America. In this exhibition, Oliver details the intricate conversations between art, music and everyday objects found in Southern culture.

“If you have blues or jazz as the American original art form, what is the visual equivalent to that?” Oliver told ARTnews magazine. “We don’t really look always in our backyard to understand the tributaries toward modernism, but you can’t have modernism without the backyard of the South, and you don’t have a South without Black culture (because) Black culture is the origins.”

The live lecture will be followed by an open conversation and Q-and-A session moderated by Sharon Louden, the Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel Artistic Director of the Visual Arts. Audience members are encouraged to take part in this open dialogue.

Steve Capers to discuss humor in life, finding purpose in online lecture

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MAX ZAMBRANO – STAFF WRITER

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For nearly three decades, Steve Capers has lived in the world of comedy. 

In 1993, he became an executive for Black Entertainment Television (BET), where he helped promote programs such as “Video Soul,” “Teen Summit,” and “Rap City.” 

Five years later, he moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to work for Comedy Central. There, he planned comedy events of some of the most well-known comedians of the time, including Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Ben Stein, Bill Cosby and Sinbad. 

Five more years passed before Capers left Comedy Central. After that, he helped run a monthly comedy show in Chicago. In 2009, Knock-Knock Productions asked him to help run a comedy show promoting Black comics. 

This festival, the Martha’s Vineyard Comedy Fest, was first held in 2010. By 2017, he was hosting Black Comedy Month as part of the comedy festival, one of the biggest celebrations of Black comedy in the country. 

“(It’s) a national campaign that helps us celebrate African American humor,” Capers said. 

At 1 p.m. Friday, July 30 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Capers will celebrate Black comedy in this week’s lecture as a part of the African American Heritage House 2021 Lecture Series. 

“At the festival, we spotlight many African American comedians, so we just want to be that platform to broaden and give that opportunity to several AfricanAmerican comedians,” he said. 

Capers will approach his lecture on CHQ Assembly with the same mentality as he did for Black Comedy Month.

“We want to make people laugh because there’s so many people who need to laugh with all of the turbulent times we’ve been going through, especially this past year with the pandemic,” he said. 

Throughout his career, Capers said he found himself having purpose. 

“You’d be amazed at how many people have come to me through the years just to say, ‘Thank you. I really needed that laugh, and I wish I could laugh even more,’ ” he said. 

Everyone goes through hard times with family, work, or health, but laughter can help improve the situation, he said. 

A few weeks ago, a fan emailed Capers and revealed she bought tickets for this year’s festival, but she had just been diagnosed with cancer and could no longer attend. Capers reached out to his friends, who made 30-second videos wishing her a swift recovery and to let her know they were thinking about her.

She wrote back to Capers saying how much she laughed and how much she needed to smile.

“This is the best thing that could ever happen,” Capers said, quoting her. 

During his lecture, Capers hopes people learn a little bit about everything.

“I want them to learn how to laugh at themselves and to laugh often, as much as possible, and to look at some of the simple things in life that can make you laugh,” he said. “Whether it’s watching sitcoms on television or watching one of your kids do something silly, always have a sense of humor. That’s the main thing I’d like people to take away with them.”

Campaign Zero co-founder DeRay Mckesson to discuss actions people can take at local level

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NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER

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DeRay Mckesson has been a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement for over six years. In the movement’s early stages, Mckesson went from news organization to news organization to spread their work, but he also took to social media, especially Twitter.

“In 2014, Twitter was really big,” Mckesson said. “It was one of the only ways that we were able to tell people what’s going on. There was no Instagram Live. There was no Facebook Live. There was no Twitter video.”

But now, Mckesson said, more technology gives people greater opportunities to connect. 

“One of the important things about this moment is that we’re able to connect with each other in ways that we’ve never been connected before,” Mckesson said. 

As well as being a leading voice for the Black Lives Matter movement, Mckesson is a co-founder of Campaign Zero, an American police reform campaign. At 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 23 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Mckesson will discuss what he has learned over the last six years around policing and around the data around it, as well as actions people can take. His lecture is part of the African American Heritage House 2021 Lecture Series.

Much of Mckesson’s work focuses on the local level, and President Barack Obama has praised his work as a community organizer. Mckesson said with issues like policing and mass incarceration, the problem mostly lies within local powers. 

“In states, in cities, it’s your city councilperson, it’s your mayor, that’s actually where the problem is,” Mckesson said. “The federal government incarcerates the least amount of people in the system — state and local incarcerate way more than anybody.”

And the same goes for policing. He said though many of the stories told focus on killings by police in big cities, police kill more people in suburbs than almost all other communities combined.

One of the important things about this moment is that we’re able to connect with each other in ways that we’ve never been connected before.”

DeRay Mckesson, Co-founder, Campaign Zero

To help spread information and tools to local communities, Mckesson co-founded Campaign Zero, an organization dedicated to making data accessible on issues like over-policing and mass incarceration. Some of the organizations and websites he is involved in include End All No-Knocks, 8 Can’t Wait, Nix the 6, Mapping Police Violence and Police Scorecard.

8 Can’t Wait in particular saw a lot of support and debate online. The movement revolves around eight restrictive use of force policies that supporters want implemented in cities and states to reduce killings by police officers. The policies range from banning chokeholds to requiring de-escalation and comprehensive reporting. 

8cantwait.org has an interactive map of all 50 states and Washington, D.C., showing which states’ legislatures proposed or passed which policies. So far, according to the website, 19 states have at least one policy enacted, with New Jersey being the only state to enact all eight policies and New York enacting the ban on chokeholds and proposing three other 8 Can’t Wait policies.

“We did 8 Can’t Wait, which was one of the biggest reductions of the power of the police in American history,” Mckesson said. “That really helped me see that change is possible — you just need to map it out for people so they know exactly what to do. That really helped me believe again.” 

Mckesson said he was also helped by those closest to him.

“I’m super blessed to have great friends and family. That’s where I go when I need to step away from this work that is so rooted in death,” he said. “I’m always reminded that we’re never alone; community makes us strong. So we push back on this idea of self-made. I’m not self-made. A community made me. A community of people helped me be strong and thoughtful.”

On a federal level, Mckesson said people should pay close attention to the Biden administration.

“Biden, today, could let people out of jail at the federal level,” he said. “He could model and signal things that are actually really important, instead of waiting for Congress to do them, and he has not, so that is something that people should be paying attention to.”

And, looking to the future, he has hope. 

“I think that we can win,” Mckesson said. “That’s like the most exciting thing I can think of: That we can win in this lifetime.”

Columbia professor James Shapiro frames current cultural issues through lens of Shakespeare

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SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER

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The works of William Shakespeare are taught across the country in everything from middle schools to colleges. One of Week Four’s Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author of Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future, James Shapiro, thinks that one of the reasons Shakespeare’s works are so prolific in the United States is because people can see conflicts reflected back at them in the plays. 

Shapiro’s CLSC presentation was broadcast on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform on March 21; it is still available for streaming. At 4 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 22 on CHQ Assembly, selections from that event will be included in a CLSC Special Week Four Program, with commentary on the book from Chatuauqua Theater Company Artistic Director Andrew Borba.

“Shakespeare has become more American than British now. And we have more Shakespeare Festivals than England, and we have more theaters for Shakespeare than England,” said Sony Ton-Aime, the Michael I. Rudell Director of the Literary Arts. “… No other writer explains America better than Shakespeare. The struggles that the characters go through are very similar to what America is feeling.”

Shapiro studied at Columbia University and the University of Chicago. He is currently the Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1985. In 2011 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Guardian. He is the author of seven books. His latest — Shakespeare in a Divided America — was a New York Times “Ten Best Books of 2020” as well as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is currently the Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at the Public Theater in New York City.

“Great productions of Shakespeare always connect with a cultural moment,” Shapiro said. 

The version of history that he was taught in school “had very little to do with the realities of the American experience,” he said. By using Shakespeare’s plays, Shapiro hopes to highlight the way certain histories have been ignored or suppressed, and that through the lens of theater, people will be able to discuss them. 

He points to Othello and President John Quincy Adams, who was an abolitionist but was unable to handle the idea of a white woman being in love with a Black man. Adams’ fears of miscegenation do not resonate with modern readers, but they remain a part of the history of the play.

Shakespeare in a Divided America

More recently, the musical Kiss Me, Kate — a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew — speaks directly to how women were pushed out of the workforce in the years following World War II. The play engages the plight of women who have to give up their independence whether it’s set in Renaissance-era Europe or postwar America. 

In his CLSC presentation, Shapiro wanted to focus on Macbeth, a play read by both Abraham Lincoln and his assassin John Wilkes Booth. He says that when Lincoln reads Macbeth, he sees a “deeply introspective hero,” one that resonates with his own feelings of guilt over a war in which upward of 700,000 Americans died. 

Booth, an actor that had appeared in a number of Shakespeare productions — including Julius Caesar — would read the same lines and see a heroic martial soldier. Shapiro refers to him as a “Lost Cause type.”

“Shakespeare is one of those places where we can still air our differences and stake a claim,” Shapiro said. “… You can have the very same words read in radically different ways, but at least they’re both engaging in a literary text.”

His book ends in the summer of 2017, when a production of Julius Caesar at the Delacorte Theater in New York City featured a Donald Trump look-alike playing Caesar. 

“I use Shakespeare as a kind of core sample of where our culture is,” Shapiro said.

This is not the first time a president look-alike has played Caesar — two years previous, a Barack Obama look-alike played the central role. However, in 2017, Trump supporters appeared and threatened violence against the actors and the director. 

“Great theater lets us see things in our culture before they happen,” Shapiro said. “The violent storming of the stage, night after night, the last week of the run was a nice dress rehearsal for Jan. 6 and the storming the Capitol by the same exact kinds of people who believe that in the cult of Donald Trump, and did not believe in the rule of law, and free expression.”

From Shapiro’s perspective, Americans are not good at talking about what they disagree over. The lack of common ground makes having a vehicle that both parties can understand even more important. 

“The issues that divide us are issues of gender, issues of immigration, issues of race and issues of inclusion,” Shapiro said. “Wonderfully, Shakespeare’s plays are about all of those things. And rather than being canceled because of that, the left and the right for the last 200 years or so have both embraced Shakespeare.”

Candace Littell Maxwell to discuss ‘adaptive leadership’ at CWC talk

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DEBORAH TREFTS – STAFF WRITER

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When it comes to leadership, the scholarship studying it is considerable, and the types are numerous. There are leadership approaches, behaviors, frameworks, methods, skills, styles, sets of styles and theories.

Adaptive leadership, which integrates a practical approach with a leadership framework, may be particularly relevant now. According to Candace Littell Maxwell, who has served as the chair of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees since May 2019, it is meaningful not only to leaders, but also “to anyone in times of change and challenge.”

At 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, July 20 in the tent on the front lawn of the Chautauqua Women’s Club, Maxwell will explain what it means during a talk titled “Adaptive Leadership in a Post-COVID Era,” and illustrate how it has influenced what has been happening on the grounds at Chautauqua.

“I have been aware of the concept of adaptive leadership for several years now,” Maxwell said. “It’s not new. There was a 2009 book by Harvard professor Ronald Heifetz that just really resonated with me in terms of trying to understand when the problem is really unclear and the solution is not known.”

The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization is a sequel to Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading, a book that Heifetz — founding director of the Center for Public Leadership — co-authored with Marty Linsky in 2002.

“It’s a set of qualities,” Maxwell continued. “… I’ve relied on this concept in my own career, particularly with my own consulting. Companies bring a consultant in because they don’t know the answers, and even the problems. … When COVID hit, I was deeply involved with the Institution. We didn’t know the answers.”

For over 30 years, Maxwell had also been deeply involved in health care financing, policy, strategy and advocacy.   

Having grown up in Providence, Rhode Island, she said that she initially took science courses for her major in resource development, and then “loaded up on business courses.” She subsequently earned her master of business administration, with a concentration in finance.

“I spent a good part of my career in D.C. and lived in the suburbs,” Maxwell said.

There she worked as a financial analyst for the Virginia-based not-for-profit Sentara Healthcare, and as a management consultant for public accounting firm Ernst & Young.

“One of my first jobs was at the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission,” Maxwell said. In her role as senior health policy analyst, she focused on Medicare program reform. 

MedPAC is an independent, non-partisan advisory agency of the U.S. Congress that was established by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and formed by the merger of two existing commissions.

“At a very high level I was trying to solve problems with respect to health care policy and Medicare,” Maxwell said­­­ — in particular, those involving access to high quality care, facilities for care, and the manner of health care delivery.  

Having worked directly with medical manufacturers, she said she turned to medical technology.

As vice president of payment and policy for the Advanced Medical Technology Association — a Washington, D.C.-based trade group representing medical device and diagnostic product developers — Maxwell led AdvaMed’s work on public and private healthcare financing and insurance reform.

And at the privately funded Health Care Technology Institute, which supports research on the medical technology industry’s clinical and economic impact, she served as executive director and principal spokesperson for policymakers and the media. 

In 1995, she formed and became president of Littell Group, a consultancy that specialized in strategic planning for medical product and technology firms until 2008. For start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike, she assessed market opportunities for new products and ventures, particularly with respect to public and private reimbursement.

Afterwards, Maxwell co-founded and served as the managing director of a business intelligence and policy advisory consultancy for health care organizations: Contenthealth.

“I helped companies plan and execute strategies so that when they launched products, the users would be adequately compensated,” she said. “… I ensured not only that regulatory — FDA — barriers were overcome, but also barriers to the medical technology. And more broadly, (I helped them) understand the impact of medical technology on the health care system, economy, patients, caregivers and innovation in care.”

From 1999 to 2008 — when Philips Healthcare acquired Respironics — Maxwell served as a member of the company’s board of directors and the chair of its corporate governance committee. Headquartered near Pittsburgh, Respironics is a publicly traded global medical supply company specializing in products that improve sleep and respiratory functions, including anesthesia masks and the first CPAP machine for the treatment of sleep apnea.

She has also served on the boards of nonprofit organizations that provide health care for uninsured populations.

“Oftentimes we’re dealing with situations where you don’t even know if you know the problem, and there is no solution, so people are coming to you for that,” Maxwell said.

After moving from greater Washington, D.C. to Erie, Pennsylvania, she taught a course at the Jefferson Educational Society of Erie during the spring of 2012 titled “Can Health Care Reform Survive the Supreme Court?” JES is a regional nonprofit think tank that had been founded four years earlier “to promote civic enlightenment and drive community progress.”

Maxwell’s session focused on the oral arguments about constitutional questions raised by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that were being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The case raises important issues concerning Congressional powers, and states’ and individuals’ rights with respect to health care,” she wrote then. “This session will explore the issues and implications of possible rulings by the high court.”

Then and now, the enormous uncertainty regarding health-related challenges confronting virtually everyone in the United States and far beyond makes an introduction to adaptive leadership both important and urgent.

For Chautauquans, Maxwell’s Tuesday morning tent talk at the CWC — which is intended to be practical rather than theoretical — will provide a unique opportunity to learn how the framework of adaptive leadership is being applied by Chautauqua’s leadership and experienced on the grounds.

Sports legends Tara VanDerveer and Nancy Lopez headline panel

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SARA TOTH – EDITOR

VanDerveer

Tara VanDerveer and Nancy Lopez are known the world over as legends in their fields — VanDerveer as the winningest coach in Division I women’s college basketball history, and Lopez as a three-time LPGA champion. And at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 20 at the Double Eagle Cafe at the Chautauqua Golf Club, the two will participate in a Coalition of Chautauqua County Women and Girls forum, co-sponsored by Chautauqua Institution, focused on “Women and Girls in Sports.”

The Coalition has been holding forums dedicated to various women’s issues since 2014; Jane Cleaver Becker said the idea for a program dedicated to women and girls in sports first started percolating last year, but COVID-19 pushed the event to 2021. VanDerveer, Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women’s Basketball at Stanford University and a life-long Chautauquan, was on board from the outset, but a happy coincidence led to Lopez’s involvement. Chautauquan Richard Smucker had helped organize a golf tournament to benefit UPMC Chautauqua in Jamestown — and Lopez’s involvement in that tournament.

“It kind of just came together that we had these two absolute stars in their fields,” said Becker, a founding member and chair for the Coalition. “They are legends in the work that they have done, and the stars just aligned here. It was our opportunity to have a panel explore issues that we think are interesting and important for us to think about.”

Becker pointed to numerous stories in the headlines about the issues women face in the world of sports as examples of topics to be covered in Tuesday’s “broad, broad discussion.” Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka faced significant backlash for declining to do press at the French Open in May, ultimately pulling out of that tournament, and Wimbledon, entirely; and amid both criticism and support, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the games’ history when the Tokyo Olympics begin this week.

“These issues are extremely important,” Becker said. “These will definitely be some of the questions to be asked, and I think it poses some interesting dialogue to be had.”

Broader issues at play, Becker said, are ones of access and opportunities.

“That’s across all sports, and providing opportunities for all girls, regardless of their economic status, regardless of ability,” she said. “(It’s important) that we provide opportunities for all girls to have access to sports when they’re young. That’s becoming more challenging, because of limitations that are sometimes being put on schools about how much they can provide.”

Also on deck for the conversation is how young women can make sports their career, if they so choose.

Lopez

“Where are the opportunities? Who are the mentors? Who are the folks who are opening doors?” Becker said. “And these two women have been doing that work, which is wonderful. They’re going to be talking about how to support women and girls who want to pursue this, even as an avocation. And if they chose this as a vocation, how do we promote that? When they want this to be their career, how do we support that, and make that easier to happen?”

The Chautauqua Golf Club is offering shuttles up to the Double Eagle at 8:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, leaving from the Main Gate Welcome Center, and then back down to the Welcome Center after the event has concluded. There is a $10 suggested donation for the event; all proceeds directly benefit the work the Coalition does in Chautauqua County. The Coalition is an all-volunteer organization, with hundreds of members across the county. The focus, Becker said, is to provide opportunities for all Chautauqua County women and girls to thrive.

That work is divided into two areas. One is the public events dedicated to myriad issues, including Tuesday’s forum with VanDerveer and Lopez. The other is the training Coalition volunteers undergo to become coaches for underserved women in the county.

“We have several populations that we coach, but our focus is on providing them support and providing them a sounding board, someone to be there to be a support to help them think through issues that they may be facing as a parent, or as a student, or as an employee,” Becker said. “We’re building a support system for women during a period of their time where they could use just that little extra something. It’s truly a great opportunity.”

Media exec Paula Madison to open AAHH series with talk on week’s China theme

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Madison

NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER

As a mixed-race Chinese-Jamaican American, Paula Madison says she wants to talk more about the cooperative relations that have existed between Blacks and Asians for many years in the America.

Madison’s maternal mother is African-Jamaican and her maternal father is Chinese, which she said surprises some people.

“Someone said, ‘Well, wait a minute. That would mean your mother was biracial, Black and Chinese, 90 years ago.’ I said, ‘Yeah, they had mixed people back then.’ Then he said, ‘I thought that happened more recently,’ ” Madison said.

Madison is the chief executive officer at Madison Media Management, the former owner and CEO of the Los Angeles Sparks, and the former executive vice president and chief diversity officer of NBCUniversal Media. 

She is the first speaker for the 2021 African American Heritage House Speaker Series, and she’ll deliver a lecture at 1 p.m. Friday, July 2, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. She’ll speak on the Week One theme “China and the World: Collaboration, Competition, Confrontation?” and discuss her perspective on China’s global initiatives.

“The G7 has decided to build a narrative around China being an enemy to developed nations by competing in areas of technology, supply chain, et cetera,” Madison said. “How did China become a bigger enemy of the U.S. than Russia, which has been hacking into U.S. government and corporate systems for years now?”

Madison said that Chinese people have been coming to the Americas and Africa since the 1830s. In the beginning, Chinese women and their families were not allowed to accompany the men.

“Most often when you found Chinese women who had also migrated, it was largely because they had been forced into being sex workers, and not for the Chinese men, but for the Europeans who were the captains and the sailors,” Madison said.

One of Madison’s goals is to deconstruct the assumption that usually when a person has Asian and Black parents or grandparents, it is the result of an American soldier being stationed in an Asian nation.

She also wants to dispel the myth that Black people are more responsible for the recent attacks on elderly Asians in the United States. 

She said that less than 10% of Asian hate attacks are committed by Black people, with around 70% perpetrated by white men. 

“Those don’t end up being publicized,” Madison said. “That is why I said I think it’s important that people understand that we (people of Asian and Black diaspora) are in large numbers.”

Madison decided to become a journalist when she realized the stories told about people of color in newspapers and cable news were very skewed.

“Every Black person depicted in the news was a criminal or an entertainer,” Madison said. “That struck me as not only untrue but outrageous.”

When Madison was a sophomore in college in the 1970s, she was walking down a street a few blocks from her house. As she was approaching Lenox Avenue near a mosque, she heard gunshots, then a busload of police officers and a helicopter overhead.

“Having grown up in an environment like that, I immediately got to the sidewalks,” Madison said. “I was actually on my stomach on the sidewalk.”

She then saw a police officer racing out of the tactical bus toward the mosque. Then, the imam of the mosque came out.

“On that block, which I knew to be a haven for drug dealing, I heard windows opening,” Madison said. “And then as I looked up, I could see barrels of guns, pointed out the windows at the police officers. So what I was in the middle of was a near war. Police were attacking the mosque. The neighborhood, in a community that was supposed to be overridden with drugs, was going to defend Muslims.”

Madison then crawled down the street, got to the corner and then saw the imam stand up on top of a car. 

“(He) shouted something like, ‘Brothers and sisters. No. This is what they want you to do. They want to start a war. Please put your guns down. go back in,’ ” Madison said. “That is what happened.”

Madison said she turned around and went back to her mother’s house. 

“My mother was a consummate news junkie. She listened to news radio all day; read all the newspapers. When I told her what had just happened, she said, ‘It’s not on the news.’ ”

At first, Madison figured that the story of solidarity would be on the evening news, but a report never appeared in any news media.

“That’s when I said, ‘OK, so what they’re willing to do is publish stories about Black people in Harlem when we are arrested or tagged with criminal behavior,’ ” Madison said.

As she later learned, two officers tried to force their way into the mosque and shot at the doors, which she thinks were steel. The bullets ricocheted and hit them. 

“Therefore, ‘officer down,’ that call went out,” Madison said. “But there was no way that this was not planned, because a busload of tactical officers were ready, and (there) was a helicopter above. That was what convinced me.”

For the next 30 years, Madison worked in the journalism industry, including 22 years at NBC, where she was executive vice president and chief diversity officer.

When Madison and her family were asked to consider investing in the Los Angeles Sparks, they declined at first.

“Within a week or so, Don Imus called the Rutgers (University) women’s basketball team ‘nappy-headed hoes’ on his CNBC/CBS radio program, and I was outraged,” Madison said. “At that point, as a woman of African descent who wears her hair in an Afro, I went back to my family and suggested we do indeed invest in women’s basketball.”

Her more recent work involves raising more awareness of Black and Asian diaspora. She said both of the TV series she is involved in developing focus on this intersection.

She recommends people pay attention to the pledges of business to support diversity and inclusion.

“I believe that most just paid lip service and reapportioned already pledged philanthropy,” Madison said. “I’m not seeing massive changes.”

In her lecture today, Madison will talk about China’s global initiatives, including how the country has donated one vaccine to developing nations for every two administered in China.

“Biden pledged 500 million doses to (developing) nations at the G7 summit, while China had been doing so for many months. Why delay the donations? Is it because many in the U.S. will not get the vaccines?” Madison said. “China’s role as a global leader is not looked upon with such animosity as the G7 nations are displaying. I, as a Black and Chinese woman, have a different view of my grandfather’s homeland, and I was asked to share it.”

UNC professor James Johnson to speak on certain uncertainty, disruptive demographics

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Throughout its history, the United States has undergone numerous demographic shifts — but James Johnson believes that with attention and care, these shifts can be leveraged in the hyper-competitive global economy.

Johnson

Johnson will present “Leading and Managing in an Era and Disruptive Demographics and Certain-Uncertainty” at 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 26, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, as part of the African American Heritage House lecture series. In this presentation, Johnson will map six major demographic shifts occurring in the United States. 

One demographic shift that Johnson will address is the rising population of immigrants and people of color, with a special look at Hispanic communities. 

“We have had below-replacement-level fertility among whites for two decades, and deaths exceed births among non-Hispanic whites. The growth is coming from people of color, but we’ve shut down immigration,” Johnson said. “The median age of a non-Hispanic white female is 45 years old; completed fertility occurs between the ages of 40 and 44. The median age of a Hispanic female is 29 years old. There’s a 10- to 20-year gap between the median age of non-Hispanic white females and women of color — that’s your fertility gap.”

At the end of the day, we cannot thrive and prosper as a hyper-competitive global economy if our population is in disarray and is declining,” Johnson said. “If we don’t reframe disruptive demographics as a competitiveness issue, we’re going to be in deep yogurt.”

In recent years, the Trump administration has mandated restrictive immigration policies and deportation of undocumented immigrants. If immigration is shut down and immigrants are removed from the country, Johnson said there will be a void left in the economy. 

“People don’t understand that whenever you have a new immigrant group enter your community, they are actually responsible for the creation of additional jobs — usually upper-class jobs. Why? Because you need a professional class of people to serve them. Why would you need an interpreter if you didn’t have people who didn’t speak English? Why would you need an immigration attorney if you didn’t have immigrants?” Johnson said. “So (if immigrants are taken out of the economy), what’s the translator going to do? What’s the immigration attorney going to do? What are the people who used to wash their car going to do? … It’s an integrated economy and people typically don’t understand how those things work.”

Aside from immigration, Johnson said that people of color face another major issue — education. 

“Public schools are increasingly — due to concentrated poverty, hyper-segregation and the like — occupied by people of color who are not being educated in a way that ensures that they have access to college education, and kinds of skills and training that we need to remain competitive,” he said.

Earlier this season, former Atlanta Public Schools superintendent Meria Carstarphen discussed how the public education system exacerbates racism and classism, noting that after a long history of redlining, American cities tend to not invest in communities of color. Cities will give tax breaks to development projects, and take from the school system — this leaves children of color living in food deserts and attending under-funded schools.

“What (the kids) experience is a reinforced message that you will not be invested in, that we do not care if you get food or health care,” Carstarphen said ahead of her lecture. 

Along the way, these factors among others will keep people of color from pursuing education.

“We have numerous data points at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where we have a total of 550 Black males in the university. I assure you, there are more than 550 Black males who are college-eligible, but we lose them in elementary and middle school,” Johnson said. “Three million kids (are) expelled from school annually, and a quarter of a million have been referred to police for misdemeanor charges as early as the first grade. Once that happens to you, it’s a hard road to get to any college. We have massive education disenfranchisement going on.”

Johnson said that if public institutions do not change to adapt to new demographics, the country will be left without a global strategy.

“At the end of the day, we cannot thrive and prosper as a hyper-competitive global economy if our population is in disarray and is declining,” Johnson said. “If we don’t reframe disruptive demographics as a competitiveness issue, we’re going to be in deep yogurt.”

Mitri Raheb to speak on hope and peace for Palestine in times of despair

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For many years, the Middle East has been embroiled in conflict; wealth, religion and power have been hotly contested.

Recently, the struggles of the Palestinan people have become overwhelmingly visible in the media, bringing to light the challenges faced each day.

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The Rev. Mitri Raheb, born in Bethlehem, Palestine, has lived his entire life experiencing these conflicts and has spent his entire career working toward a bridge of peace and prosperity for him and his people. 

Raheb will share his story and his quest for peace with Chautauqua during his lecture, “Palestine: Hope at Times of Despair?!” at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 25, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform

Raheb is the president and founder of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem. His vision is that his fellow Palestinians will not only survive, but thrive, and that this will be facilitated through creativity and creative resistance, the tools he believes will build and maintain a sense of hope. 

“Hope is the power to keep focusing on the larger vision while taking the small, often undramatic, steps toward that future,” Raheb wrote in his book Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes, one of his 17 books authored during his time as senior pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, making him the most widley published Palestinian theologian to date. 

In addition to his educational initiatives and prolific writing career, Raheb is the recipient of many awards for his local, regional and international efforts to end the occupation in Palestine and to work towards a peaceful, equitable society for all in the Middle East, most notably the Olof Palme Prize in 2015 and the German Media Prize in 2012. 

Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno said she looks forward to Raheb’s lecture and that his voice is a welcome one in the discussion of peace in the Middle East. 

“Giving witness to his work are the many awards for peace that he has been given, as well as the worldwide media outlets that have sought his wisdom and voice,” Rovegno said. “In a week focusing on the theme, ‘The Future We Want, the World We Need,’ we are most grateful to bring his voice for peace in the Middle East to Chautauqua.”

Raheb is the co-founder of Bright Stars of Bethlehem, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that, according to their website, “promotes peace and justice in Palestine through Dar al-Kalima University of Arts & Culture and its initiatives for youth, families and older adults, as well as public advocacy for basic human rights.”

“Our aim is that our people, who admire stars, will dare to look up and dream,” Raheb said of Bright Stars. “Our vision is for the people of Palestine to have life in abundance.”

This program is made possible by Week Nine “Program Sponsor” Erie Insurance and the Joan Brown Campbell Department of Religion Endowment.

William “Sandy” Darity, Kirsten Mullen to speak on reparations for AAHH lecture series

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Forty acres and a mule. 

This was the promise Gen. William T. Sherman made to enslaved Black Americans upon their liberation after the Civil War. Special Field Order No. 15 was the first recorded attempt of the United States granting reparations — the financial or material compensation given to make amends for injustice — to former slaves. 

But the country’s first crack at reparations was short-lived. After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson entered office and withdrew this offer, returning the land given to freed families back to the former Confederates it was confiscated from. 

More than 150 years later, Black Americans are still reckoning with the financial legacy of slavery, as the average Black family only has only 10 percent of the wealth of the average white family. In 2020, William “Sandy” Darity — the Samuel DuBois Books Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies, and Economics at Duke University — and A. Kirsten Mullen — writer, folklorist, and museum consultant — co-authored the book From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black American in the Twenty-First Century, which been hailed as the most comprehensive case for reparations to date. 

Darity and Mullen will present their research and discuss what reparations would look like in 2020 at 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 19, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as part of the African American Heritage House lecture series

In their research, Darity and Mullen attempted to answer the question of what these modern reparations would look like, and how much it would cost. Taking the initial promise — 40 acres and a mule — and factoring in all of the descendants that would qualify for such a program, the pair estimated it would cost the federal government up to $12 trillion. While this number seems daunting, Mullen notes that the cost would not have to bankrupt taxpayers. 

“It matters how … the questions (about reparations) are posed. When (politicians) say ‘your tax dollars,’ people are thinking about their own pocketbooks, and they may not always be so generous. The payment of reparations need not require an increase in personal taxes. The Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury both could be instructed to pay reparations for Black Americans, and it would not affect the taxes paid by the American people,” Mullen said. “(Darity and I) are not focused on white guilt, or anyone’s guilt. We lay culpability at the feet of the federal government, and not the individuals.”

Darity suggested two qualifiers for who would receive reparations: One, the individual must have at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the United States, and two, the individual must have identified as Black on a legal document in the last 10 years. These qualifiers would help weed out any person exploiting the potential program for cash.

However, reparations could take more forms than just cash payments. Other suggested options are college scholarships, student loan forgiveness, housing grants, business grants and more. 

While reparations may not atone for all of the United States’ wrongdoings, the practice would help alleviate the racial wealth gap first established in the times of slavery. Mullen said that slavery’s economic ties were all over the country, and in every family. 

It may be the case that your family produced the barrels that the rum was in during the slave trade, or the ship’s mast. Or, perhaps your family had an interest in newspapers — like the Hartford Courant, which is still in existence and was founded during slavery. Its bread and butter was not just runaway slave ads, but ads for slave ship captains and people who were looking for rope … (and) rations for these ships, looking for clothing to be supplied to these captive Africans when they arrived,” Mullen said. “Slavery was a global economy, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in this country whose livelihood was not tied to it.”

“Huge numbers of people — especially in the South, but not just the South — had direct ties to the slave trade,” Mullen said. “Even if you did not live in a household with slaves, you had a near relative who did, and benefitted from that association.” 

Mullen noted that the revenue from the slave trade went beyond slaveowners and their families.

“It may be the case that your family produced the barrels that the rum was in during the slave trade, or the ship’s mast. Or, perhaps your family had an interest in newspapers — like the Hartford Courant, which is still in existence and was founded during slavery. Its bread and butter was not just runaway slave ads, but ads for slave ship captains and people who were looking for rope … (and) rations for these ships, looking for clothing to be supplied to these captive Africans when they arrived,” Mullen said. “Slavery was a global economy, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in this country whose livelihood was not tied to it.”

Reparations advocates note that there are many historical precedents for reparations both in the United States and across the globe. The federal government allocated reparations to Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II, and a commission was created to give reparations to Native American people after a long history of colonization and land theft. Countries like Germany and South Africa have also provided reparations to their own historically oppressed people.

For decades, a bill titled H.R. 40 — a nod to Sherman’s promise of 40 acres, which is also known as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African-Americans Act — has sat in Congress awaiting action. 

If passed, the bill would not guarantee reparations, but initiate a study of reparations. In 2014, only two congresspeople of 535 approved it. In the past two decades, public opinion on reparations has shifted. According to CNBC, only 4% of white Americans in 2000 supported monetary reparations for the descendents of enslaved people. Reuters has reported that this number is at 10% in 2020, while 50% of Black Americans support it. In the same study, it was shown that 80% of Republicans oppose the cause and nearly 70% of Democrats support it. 

In 2020, there are now 143 congresspeople co-sponsoring the bill. The issue was even taken on during the 2020 Democratic primary debates, with most candidates in favor of at least launching a study on the issue. 

“This legislation (has) been sitting for (about) 30 years now, waiting for enactment by Congress,” Mullen said. “It’s actually changed substantially since it was first introduced, which I think many people aren’t aware of. We’d like to point the community’s attention to the changes which we think are very intriguing: Why were these changes made, and what consequences might be for the outcome of study commission on reparations, should it be enacted?”

Bruce Rabin – “Dr. Stress” – to provide innovative advice on coping with stress

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It’s the home stretch. In less than two weeks, the 2020 CHQ Assembly will officially conclude. In the meantime, however, “Dr. Stress” will be sharing sound advice for approaching personal and professional challenges as summer winds down, yet most of the uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic do not. 

Bruce Rabin, M.D., Ph.D., will give a Contemporary Issues Forum presentation titled “Understanding and Managing Stress for Better Mental and Physical Health,” at 3:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 18, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform

This will be Rabin’s fifth address at Chautauqua Institution; it is sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club. His first occurred in 1996 on the Amphitheater stage during a week on integrative medicine. 

Although he retired in January 2017 from his positions as professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh, and medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Division of Clinical Immunopathology and its Healthy Lifestyle Program, Rabin has not stopped serving the greater Pittsburgh community. 

While he was completing his second book, Coping with Stress for Mental and Physical Health and Longevity, published in 2019, Rabin was also helping parents of abused and neglected children deal with stress so that they do not cause further harm to their children. During the pandemic, he has continued this essential volunteer work through YouTube videos. 

In May, David Templeton of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that “in retirement, Dr. Rabin … continues practicing what he preaches as Pittsburgh’s calmest, gentlest force — a prophet of peacefulness — that I can best describe as Mister Rogers for adults.”  

“For years he has spent his own time and dime helping city teachers, firefighters, students, doctors and journalists, among many others, to adopt certain mental and physical practices to keep predatory stress at bay, as a tamer does tigers,” Templeton continued. “… For years, Dr. Rabin taught medical students the biology of stress and how to treat patients suffering from it. But his complementary goal was preparing them to withstand the rigors of their own profession.” 

In 1959, between his first two years of college at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio (which had not yet merged with Case Institute of Technology), Rabin gained some insight into those rigors in his hometown after going to the University of Buffalo (then a private medical college), in search of a summer job. 

He said that he was directed to a woman who needed someone to wash glassware. She sat him down, they talked, and she said, “You know, kid, there should be something better you can do; follow me, kid.” 

Rabin followed her — down the hallway at a rapid pace — and found himself in front of a young man behind a desk who “said that he could use someone to hold the animals and clean up the lab.” Despite their 13-year age difference, they soon became friends. 

Because of his friendship with Noel Richard Rose, Rabin said he enrolled at U.B. for a Master’s degree and studied under Rose, who had not only earned a Ph.D. but was also attending medical school part-time. 

“‘Follow me, kid’ laid the groundwork,” Rabin said. “I met this man. He became a friend. I modeled myself after him. Two weeks ago, at age 92, he passed away. It shows how little things influence your life.” 

After earning his Ph.D. in immunology and his M.D. at the State University of New York at Buffalo — U.B. had merged with the SUNY system in 1962 — Rabin joined SUNY Buffalo’s faculty of the Department of Pathology and the Center for Immunology in 1970. 

Two years later, he was recruited to the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School as director of its Clinical Immunopathology Laboratory.

“When I was 40,” said Rabin, “that’s when I began to focus on the effect of stress on health. If your immune system doesn’t function well, the quality and length of your life don’t work as well. For 35 years we studied stress — a group of us — and defined it.”

Academically, Rabin directed an elective course for 50 fourth-year UPMS students.

Within the Division of Clinical Immunopathology, his clinical work focused on providing laboratory tests to assist in detecting autoimmune and immunodeficiency diseases, and protein abnormalities in serum, urine and spinal fluid. He also provided tests for serologic diagnosis of infectious diseases.

In addition, he maintained an active consultation service to assist in the interpretation and application of clinical laboratory immunology tests.

Rabin’s research expertise involved “implementing new technologies in the Clinical Immunopathology Laboratory (in order) to be more precise and cost-effective in the identification of antibody and serum protein abnormalities and the development and implementation of programs that enhance the quality of health by reducing the risk of disease development.”

In other words, Rabin’s research and laboratory have made substantial contributions to understanding how the immune system and brain communicate and interact, how stress affects these communication pathways, and how it influences an individual’s overall health.

To promote research in mind-body interactions, he has served on government panels in a variety of capacities, and as the secretary/treasurer and as the president of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society. 

In essence, Rabin has been trying to help healthy people remain in good health as they age.

He wants Chautauquans to know that it is important “to remain calm — as so much is changing now with so much that’s unknown — to help reduce impulsive behaviors so they can be better role models for their children and grandchildren, … speak rationally to them (and others), and keep … focused and thinking clearly.” 

How can one remain calm as the amount of stress piles up — especially during a pandemic?

First, watch and listen to Rabin’s talk. Second, follow his advice and practice the coping actions he recommends. And third, embark on a journey with Dr. Stress / Mister Rogers for Adults as a guide via his book, Coping with Stress for Mental and Physical Health and Longevity, and his YouTube video series. 

Doing so may not only vastly improve one’s overall health, but also lengthen one’s life.

ASU professor Braden Allenby to discuss conspiracy theories, free speech in Lincoln Applied Ethics Lecture Series

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To Braden Allenby, people are information-processing mechanisms — and when that mechanism is overloaded, the society they live in risks collapse.

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At 3:30 p.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 17, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Allenby — President’s Professor and Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics at Arizona State University — will present “Information Technology and the Fall of the American Republic” as part of the Lincoln Applied Ethics Series. This presentation will cover how the ever-growing digital information-scape may danger American democracy. 

For its history, the United States has operated on the idea of pluralism — in which an array of viewpoints are woven together and compromise is found in legislation. Allenby said that pluralism thrives in complexity — until a certain point. 

“If things get too complex and if people begin to lose the ability to process information effectively because there’s too much of it, then what you end up with is political failure. That’s kind of what we’re seeing today in the United States,” Allenby said, “when information gets too complicated and (the information processing system) breaks down. You can see that in our politics: Information has gotten so complicated that many people are unable to tell the difference between the statement of fact, and fairly strange conspiracy theories.”

Because people are overloaded with information as it is increasingly available at their fingertips, Allenby said many cling to certain narratives — sometimes dangerous and incorrect. 

In 2016, a man inspired by misinformation shared by InfoWars host Alex Jones attacked a Washington D.C. pizza restaurant that he believed harbored an underground pedophile ring orchestrated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The theory was proven wrong and the gunman was arrested. The incident has since been dubbed “Pizzagate.” 

“That individual believed (the conspiracy theory), and he believed it enough to come up with a gun and start shooting up the place,” Allenby said. “The reason they believed it was that if you don’t have the ability to handle everything that our society is throwing at you, you fall back on your core narrative, your core belief system. And anything that fits with that, you’re going to believe whether or not it actually makes sense.”

Allenby also noted the “chemtrail” conspiracy theory that suggests the white trails of vapor left in the sky by passing airplanes are actually clouds of chemicals released in the air to control the population or manipulate the weather. Typically, theorists believe that this is a government-driven secret mission against average people.

“The chemtrail conspiracy theory means that you’ve got to believe that there are tens of thousands of people in national labs and in the government all keeping this amazing secret, when we can’t even keep NSA secrets safe,” Allenby said. “So, it’s a stretch.”

But, Allenby said that theorists do not turn to these stories for their believability, but for their moral comfort. 

“(People) believe (a conspiracy theory) because it fits with their worldview. Their worldview is what they are sort of pushed into by the complexity of the world,” Allenby said. “And because they can’t go out and think about every single fact, what they do is take the position of trusted media, trusted friends, and that becomes the way they view the world.”

The internet poses more threats than just an overload of information, according to Allenby. The idea of free speech has shifted since the rise of social media. Now, the average person speaks out on social media if they want their voice heard. 

“If you want to know where speech is today — it’s in the discussions about Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Because, if you can’t get on social media, you can scream all you want in your yard, nobody’s going to hear you. The way you get heard is you get on social media,” Allenby said. “So, when Twitter kicks you off Twitter, that’s a big deal — not because you care so much about Twitter, but because now you no longer have speech in today’s media environment.”

With this shift in public discussion, the regulation of ideas and public discussion has shifted, too. Allenby believes it is something to worry about. 

“A lot of people are arguing about freedom of speech in terms of, ‘Should people be allowed to promulgate clearly dangerous conspiracy theories that might encourage violence?’ That kind of argument (is one) we are having at a national level, but we’re not asking whether or not free speech as a government concept even exists anymore,” Allenby said. “Our entire idea of free speech has gone from being something that the government assures us is protected, as far as the government goes, to being a matter of the terms and conditions of social media companies. Free speech has been privatized, and nobody really notices.”

This series is funded by the David and Joan Lincoln Family Fund for Applied Ethics.

Heritage Lecture Series to screen 1923 film of community pageant

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As Chautauqua Institution jitterbugged into the Roaring Twenties, Women’s Club President Anna Pennybacker was repulsed by the “vulgar amusements” of the community during Independence Day celebrations. So she set out to make a new one. 

“There were a variety of different things, (like) pole climbing and fat man races. She thought (the holiday) should be some dignified commemoration of the Declaration of Independence,” said Jon Schmitz, Institution archivist and historian. “(Pennybacker was) unhappy with the way that the Fourth of July was being observed and instead suggested that they celebrate a Citizen’s Day.”

In 1923, Pennybacker, the Institution, and the community hosted Chautauqua’s first Independence Day Citizen’s Pageant. Schmitz will present a recording of this celebration at 3:30 p.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 14, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as part of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

The pageant was a series of reenactments of American history. The script and score was written by Albion Fellows Bacon, and the New York Symphony performed.  

“They got together a bunch of people from the grounds who would play the various roles (in) vignettes from American history, illustrating what was important, the value of American citizenship and so forth,” Schmitz said. “The trouble was that the more vulgar amusements that she wanted to replace (continued) as well, so it wasn’t that much of a success.”

Nonetheless, this pageant was recorded and 50,000 copies of the script and score were distributed nationally; Schmitz estimates that 500 communities replicated it on their own. 

Pennybacker’s image of a Citizen’s Day was not originally based around a pageant.

“She suggested that those who would be voting for the first time — as women, or as immigrants — would gather and then be processed to some public domain like the town courthouse or something and they would have people talk about citizenship and then they would all take the allegiance,” Schmitz said. “Many communities actually did that.” 

Schmtiz noted that the film shows how the pageant addressed the issues.

“(The film) is also of interest because there’s such great attention paid to immigration, and immigration was pretty much the number one issue at this time — between 1921 and 1924. There had been great concern over immigration with debate over immigration at Chautauqua, but also more importantly throughout the country,” Schmitz said.

There was a fear of mass immigration into the United States following the First World War, so Congress enacted legislation to limit immigration through literacy tests and strict criteria. This legislation included the Emergency Quota Act in 1921 and the Immigration Act in 1924

“I hope (the audience) enjoy (the film), and I hope that they have a clearer view of what Chautauqua was like in the early 1900s, and how people were viewing immigration,” Schmitz said.

This series is made possible with a gift from Jeff Lutz and Cathy Nowosielski.

Lincoln Institute president George McCarthy to speak on racism in land policy

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In 1933, the Home Owners Loan Act allocated emergency financial relief to homeowners struggling through the Great Depression. But this legislation led to nearly a century of racist consequences — and George “Mac” McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, fears that the United States will suffer through the same series of events again.

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At 3:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 12, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform — as part of the African American Heritage House lecture series — McCarthy will present a lecture detailing the ways in which this act and the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation failed minority communities for generations, and how the United States is risking the same mistake again. 

“The designers of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation actually went out to the different cities in the United States and they met with real estate and banking professionals. They mapped the cities and created the secret maps in which they were deciding where they would offer refunds, refinanced mortgages, and where they wouldn’t,” McCarthy said. “Basically, it was plainly stated in the way they were doing this that areas with high densities of minorities or immigrants were going to be designated as hazardous areas.” 

These redlining maps were uncovered in the 1970s in the National Archives. In the time since, people have been able to map the long-term consequences of this secret black-listing. 

“If you look at those maps, what happened in the neighborhood that they decided were hazardous for lending (in) the 1930s until the present is eerie,” McCarthy said. “Basically, almost every indicator of success or quality of life that one would have is markedly different in those areas. Every other (plan or decision made) after the Great Depression (happened) in ways that continue to disadvantage those neighborhoods.”

McCarthy noted that as the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the globe this spring, the United States has fallen into financial recession. The Great Recession of last decade, while not directly resulting in redlining, disproportionately harmed minority communities. He hopes that by bringing attention to this history, people can urge elected representatives to provide financial relief in equitable ways. 

“If we’re going to find trillions of dollars to try to stimulate this economy, let’s do it right this time,” McCarthy said. “In the Great Recession, while we bailed out … all the big banks and the car companies, we let Hispanics lose two-thirds of their wealth. Two-thirds of their wealth was lost in four years. And 53% of the wealth of African-American households was lost in four years during the Great Recession from 2007 to 2012. And if you’re white, the wealth fell by 16%, and then it was made up really quickly afterwards — but it hasn’t recovered for African Americans and Latinos.”

The presentation will feature one region in particular: the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. 

“Over the course of 90 years, that neighborhood has been kind of the target of what one could only describe as race warfare,” McCarthy said. “First, they deny access to financing, so people can’t keep their homes. Then they used urban renewal and eminent domain to take away a big chunk of the neighborhoods so they could build Interstate 94 right smack through the middle of it. Then they locate newly built affordable housing all around it.”

McCarthy noted that by putting affordable housing in these neighborhoods, the government was keeping children from low-income families away from well-funded public schools, among other public services. 

“Then you look at the current statistics that describe the (gauges of quality of life) — like life expectancy, wealth, income, those kinds of things — right there in St. Paul, Minnesota, the life expectancy in the neighborhood that was designated in 1933 as hazardous is 10 years shorter on average than life expectancy in a neighborhood a mile away that was considered to be one of the nicest neighborhoods in America.”

Minneapolis has made headlines in recent months after the police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd — but McCarthy said that the police are just one entity in the city that should atone for racism. 

“It’s easy to get upset when you see something as horrifying as the murder of George Floyd. But it’s much harder to think about how you remedy 90-plus years of basically direct assault on people because of the color of their skin,” McCarthy said. “It’s not just the actions of the police that need to be addressed, it’s actually 90 — if you go back to the Civil War it’s 150 — years (of) constant assault and … an unbalancing of the scales of justice that we have built into our own public policy. Until we admit that, then we’re not really going to be able to understand the measures that we are going to need to take to kind of remedy that situation in a meaningful way.”

The presentation looks at McCarthy’s professional expertise: land policy. This largely unseen force is a major shaper of quality of life. It influences infrastructure, public health, sanitation systems, water access, public transportation, green spaces in urban areas, and a community’s ability to withstand natural disasters. 

McCarthy said that fixing issues of inequality in these areas can be difficult. It cannot be fixed by a simple band-aid: sometimes complete reconstruction is necessary.

“We built in all these explicitly racist policies or practices in our public policy, particularly in lending in housing policy. Then we decided that we were going to address it when people really realized just how unfair and unequal the treatment of (people of color), particularly African Americans was. We passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act in 1968, (and) the Community Reinvestment Act in 1976,” McCarthy said. “Every one of (these policies) was predicated as the same basic remedy to inequality — which was, ‘Now we’re going to make the opportunity equal.’ But you can’t make opportunity equal when you’ve unbalanced the playing field so far that giving somebody equal opportunity only then just maintains the difference.”

Heritage Lecture to welcome Gary Moore on ‘The History of Toilette Paper’

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Gary Moore has presented comical yet fascinating niche history lessons at Chautauqua Institution every summer since 2011. But this year, Moore’s lecture turned into an account of living history as the world lives through a near-dystopian era of scarcity in the wake of a pandemic. So, what is the topic?

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Toilet paper. 

Or, more specifically “The History of Toilette Paper,” set to premiere at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 7, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform as a part of the Heritage Lecture Series. Moore decided on this topic one year ago, with no idea that spring 2020 would be stricken with a nationwide toilet paper shortage, sparked by mass panic-buying of household essentials as the near future was uncertain. Moore used this tidbit as a new, timely segment in his presentation. 

“Basically, I had two parts to the presentation,” Moore said. “One was the history of toilet paper, and the second part was alternatives to toilet paper, and what people have used for centuries. (Now) I have a third (part) for the toilet paper shortage.”

Moore’s relationship with the Institution began in 2011, when he presented on the history of the outhouse. A mutual friend of Institution archivist Jon Schmitz and Moore suggested this presentation for a week on global health, since Moore already had a presentation on the subject from his days as an agriculture professor at North Carolina State University

“The reason I have such a lecture is — before I retired from North Carolina State University, I taught a course on the history of agriculture. In that course, we would talk about various government programs in agriculture,” Moore said. “During the Great Depression, there were a whole bunch of programs that were enacted. … There was a program where the Works Progress Administration built outhouses. It put people to work and it improved rural health.”

The lecture was a hit. Moore has presented it at the Institution, and other regional Chautauquas, several times in the years following. 

“What happens when I give the outhouse presentation — and I give it quite often — people ask me about toilet paper. ‘What did they use in the outhouse for toilet paper?’,” Moore said. “So I (told Schmitz last summer) I would like to do a presentation about toilet paper. We did not know at that time how timely this topic was going to be.”

With this presentation, Moore hopes to educate people while also inspiring them to laugh at the absurdity of life. 

“I have two objectives. One is to educate people — part of my job as an educator (is that) I want them to realize we’re in a third toilet paper shortage (and) history tends to repeat itself,” Moore said. “Then, in this time of crisis, (I want people) to laugh (and) realize life is too short to take seriously. I want to educate people, but also entertain.”

Along with his lectures, Moore writes a blog called “The Friday Footnote,” for agriculture educators across the country. In researching for his blog, he said he will fall down rabbit holes and stories that fascinate him and inspire him to write a corresponding lecture. Most recently, his blog research has inspired him to work on lectures about the Rural Electrical Administration bringing electricity to rural and farming America during the Great Depression, and the Soil Conservation Service’s work in the Dust Bowl. 

Moore said he continues these lectures, especially at the Institution, because teaching is his ultimate passion. 

“I enjoy teaching. I was a university professor for 47 years. I just really love to teach and this is an opportunity to teach,” Moore said. “I enjoy interacting with the people and the atmosphere of Chautauqua is great. I do speak at other Chautauquas, and each one has its own unique personality.”

This series is made possible with a gift from Jeff Lutz and Cathy Nowosielski.

Former Atlanta superintendent Meria Carstarphen to speak on racism in public school system

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Meria Carstarphen experienced first-hand as a Black student how the American public education system exacerbates systemic racism in the classroom. This is why she has dedicated her career as an educator to serving the children who are — like she was years ago — an afterthought in the education system.

Carstarphen

“I was in high school into the late ‘80s. I went to school (in Selma, Alabama) through a tracking system where once you were in — often based on socioeconomics and race — honors classes, you had access to rigor and education,” Carstarphen said. “Basically … it was who you were, not what you knew, that might give you access to those opportunities. Growing up in public education, I was always one of less than a handful of Black kids in any of my classes.”

Carstarphen returned to her hometown to teach middle school Spanish and documentary photography and saw the same systems of oppression shaping the next generation. She wanted to make a bigger difference — so, she went to Harvard for a doctorate specializing in superintendency. With this, she served in three capital cities across the nation — St. Paul, Austin, and most recently Atlanta. 

“I believe public schools are the canary in the coal mine. If you use your public school system, which is the gateway for anybody to get educated, to have a mind that thinks for itself, and can make decisions for itself — if you’re not doing that for everyone who walks through a schoolhouse gate, then you are literally undermining the very democracy we’re trying to preserve.”

“Before, (education inequality) was driven by laws and rules and social behavior — but today, (education inequality) is driven by housing patterns and socioeconomics. Those systems separate kids,” Carstarphen said. “You, (a student), can go to school your entire public education career and never … from pre-K to 12th grade (go to school) with a white person in the building.”

The solution to this isn’t a simple Band-Aid. Carstarphen believes that the best approach to reforming education is to reconstruct it from its base. 

At 3:30 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, Aug. 5 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, Carstarphen will present “The New Reconstruction: Transforming Education for the 21st Century,” the Week Six lecture in the African American Heritage House lecture series

“I believe public schools are the canary in the coal mine. If you use your public school system, which is the gateway for anybody to get educated, to have a mind that thinks for itself, and can make decisions for itself — if you’re not doing that for everyone who walks through a schoolhouse gate, then you are literally undermining the very democracy we’re trying to preserve.”

In her experience as an educator, Carstarphen has solidified her belief that a fair education system that serves all students is essential to a democracy. She pulled much of her lecture’s argument from an 1866 essay by Frederick Douglass on Reconstruction. 

Reconstruction was a period of 12 years following the Civil War in which the United States had to rebuild a system that included 4 million formerly enslaved people into the fabric of society. Many positive changes came from this era, ncluding the establishment of Black institutions like Howard University. However, state legislatures in the South built an unwelcome system for Black people, writing “Black codes” that restricted the labor and behavior of freed slaves. 

Carstarphen found that during this era, narrow expectations and practices for education were established that still exist, in one way or another, in 2020. 

“The idea of Reconstruction … is a great vision, but what is missing is a process that was inclusive in the first place — a process that gave those very people who were marginalized and enslaved real agency in shaping the society that they were trying to build, so someone else built it for you,” Carstarphen said. “The people who had the power, the control, the voice, driving Reconstruction — the white elite — are the very same people who had all the power, the control, the voice before Reconstruction. It’s only natural that (this) exclusive process reproduces exclusive power structures, which is why we struggle today.”

Systemic racism exists all around American cities — not just in the classroom. Carstarphen saw first-hand in her time as an educator that certain neighborhoods and communities were invested in while others were not. Oftentimes, the neighborhoods that were left in the dust were overwhelmingly Black. 

“You can go back and see how the vestiges of past behavior still are implemented today — but it’s a new kind of (repression). You see where massive tax breaks are given for development in the hottest areas of a city. Cities give the tax breaks, and they often take from public schools (or other services) to do that,” Carstarphen said. “You’ll never see them go down and develop a Black community. Like in food deserts, quality housing, health care and clinics — those (investments) don’t exist in the neighborhoods where our kids go to school.” 

Not only does this put certain communities at a disadvantage materially, Carstarphen believes that it puts a strain on a child’s psyche. 

“What (the kids) experience is a reinforced message that you will not be invested in, that we do not care if you get food or health care,” Carstarphen said.

Carstarphen argues that the solution is in a complete reconstruction of the education system, including a change in culture. 

“If you don’t change the culture — (the culture will) eat your strategy for breakfast every day. That’s exactly what happened in Reconstruction. Not too long (after slavery) the very people who created the systems (of slavery) were building the new system. So, they just made it so that Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the Ku Klux Klan were allowed to exist,” Carstarphen said. “You can’t go from Civil War to civil rights to now civil unrest. At some point, you have to actually say, ‘We have to come together as a collective spirit to not just change the laws, practices, and social behaviors,’ … and then commit to a new way of behaving.”

Carstarphen is familiar with educational culture change. In 2014, Atlanta Public Schools welcomed Carstarphen on the heels of one of the largest cheating scandals in public school history, where a number of teachers were caught modifying their students’ scores on standardized tests. In the following years, a number of teachers, testing coordinators, and administrators were arrested and convicted for racketeering

“To me, this isn’t just systemic. This was done at the hands of Black people, too. It’s not all racism — some of it is racism, some of it is systemic racism — but some of that was done by the hands and the behavior of the very people who look like the children we’re trying to help the most,” Carstarphen said. “Enacting a culture change is essential.”

When Carstarphen began her role at APS, she worked to eradicate the existing culture that stressed the importance of high-stakes testing. She then created an environment that stressed the wellbeing of the students in her district — all 50,000 of them. Her first graduating class, the class of 2015, had a graduation rate of 71.5%, which was 12 percentage points higher than the previous year. In the years following, the graduation rate hit 79.9% — a historic high for the district. 

In September 2019, the Atlanta Board of Education voted to not extend Carstarphen’s contract, which expired June 30, 2020. Carstarphen spent her final year at the district helping her students and 6,000 employees through the pandemic-induced shift online. Here, Carstarphen learned more about how disparities in technology and internet-access exacerbate the class issues that already existed. 

“I can name 10,000 kids who don’t have technology … (or) don’t have access to the internet. It’s a new barrier that no one is addressing. To me, (internet access) is as important as water these days,” Carstarphen said. “When you go and get … a home, you don’t put up the pole and the wire for electricity. The sewage is already laid in the street with a thing that goes into your house — you don’t go dig the ditch and install.”

Carstarphen said that she was excited to share these ideas of educational reconstruction for the CHQ Assembly. As a superintendent, having abstract conversations about educational systems was a difficult thing to do. 

“I’ve been in urban education for 15 years or so, and you don’t ever get to do this kind of reflection or these kinds of talks. Most people want to just hear about what we should do, should we volunteer at our school,” Carstarphen said. “I like to have a thought partnership with people who really care, and believe in this kind of discourse. But, in a respectful way, you don’t see that in our country anymore.”

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