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Mosaic Committee to host conversation with Michelle Alexander

By Loretta Waldman

“The New Jim Crow” author to take part in Feb. 28 conversation on race, incarceration

Noted civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar Michelle Alexander is scheduled to be on campus Wednesday, Feb. 28, to take part in a moderated conversation on race, the justice system, and mass incarceration in America. Alexander is the author of the New York Times best-selling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. She will be joined by CCSU anthropology professors Dr. Evelyn Phillips and Dr. Warren Perry, who will serve as moderators. The Mosaic Committee of the Student Union board of Governors is hosting the program, which begins at 6 p.m. in Welte Hall. Tickets are required. Admission is free. 

Members of the Student Union Board of Governors Mosaic Committee decided to make Alexander’s visit to CCSU their signature event this year. Her work directly aligns with its stated mission “to expand the CCSU communities’ understanding of diversity (who we are) and educate on inclusion (how we act).” 

The committee introduced a series titled "Stay Woke" around divisive issues this fall. Two lunchtime forums featuring CCSU professors were held last semester. The first one,” Charlottesville: Are You Surprised?”, was moderated by history professor Dr. Robert Wolff. A second program in November, “To Bear Arms: A Right or Responsibility?”, was led by history professor Dr. Matthew Warshauer.

The committee’s goal is to facilitate discussions on divisive issues that students would not necessarily be able to have in the classroom, according to Henry Myers, chair of the Mosaic Committee, a group representing cultural and faith-based organizations on campus. The Student Union Board of Governors is thrilled that Alexander agreed to come speak on campus, said Susan Sweeney, associate director of Student Activities and Leadership Development. CCSU is one of only six speaking dates Alexander has scheduled in 2018, Sweeney said.

The Mosaic Committee has been at the forefront of facilitating discussions on social justice issues. Members hope the programs will leave students better informed about the issues dividing us and more respectful in their interactions with people who don’t share their point of view, according to Sweeney.

Myers, a senior and Social Work major, suggested bringing Alexander to campus after taking a course in which Alexander’s book was assigned reading. In a brief interview with the Courier, Myers explains why the committee unanimously approved the proposal.

Q. What prompted you to invite Alexander as a speaker?

A. We felt like it would make people more alert, more aware of these issues. We thought it would make them start asking, “What can be done to address these issues? What can we do?” Not everyone has the opportunity to take a course that teaches them the reality we live in. It’s not just economics or political science or sociology. It’s all one and it’s how they intersect.

Q. Why now?

A. Inequality is growing. Having [Alexander] here really gives us an opportunity to examine what we’re part of and how we can advocate to change it. We wanted to do something that would actually touch this community and students. We want to talk about these facts — issues hitting and hurting our communities every day.

Q. What is it about Alexander’s book that most impressed you?

A. The undeniable statistics she presents that show that racial profiling is a reality. The purpose of bringing her to CCSU is to educate our community and raise awareness on these social injustices that impact communities of color on a daily basis. All of us have had these conversations with family and friends. We want to bring them to campus to bring awareness to what’s going on.

The next "Stay Woke" conversation – “Racial Profiling: Fact or Fiction” – is scheduled for Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. in Alumni Hall.  It will feature Ken Barone of the Institute of Municipal and Regional Policy and Professor William Dyson from CCSU’s Political Science Department as the moderators.

For tickets to the Michelle Alexander program, go to the Student Center Information Desk or visit https://ccsu.showare.com.

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