As America’s streets filled with protests and its social conscience reignited following the killings of George Floyd and a long line of others earlier this year, organizers of the university’s Greeley Peace Scholar program decided to expand the annual discussion from a few weeks in April to a yearlong series of speakers and events.
The program began Oct. 8, with a presentation by artist Steve Locke on the power and message of public spaces and monuments, and closes in late April with a residency by the 2021 Greeley Peace Scholar, Fania Davis, a veteran social justice activist, civil rights attorney and longtime voice for restorative justice. In between are presentations on voting rights, racial disparities in the justice system and social movements for change.
Locke’s 75-minute talk, viewed on Zoom, drew more than 200 people and set the tone for the series. The Boston-rooted, New York-based artist and educator wove art, architecture and meaning into his presentation, which covered everything from public memorials on Brooklyn wall spaces to his own work, including “Three Deliberate Grays for Freddie,” a memorial for Freddie Gray, the Black man who died from injuries sustained while in police custody in Baltimore in 2015. Locke completed the façade while he was artist-in-residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
All Greeley Scholar Program events are virtual, free and open to the public.
“The expansion of the program is in response to all the things that have happened since the resurgence of Black Lives Matter and the awakening of a national reckoning with the state of race in this country,” says Sue Kim, associate dean of undergraduate studies in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and a member of the Greeley committee. Kim says potent conversations about race and social justice have never been “more timely or powerful.”
Locke’s kickoff event resulted from coordination that cut across disciplines. Assoc. Prof. of Art & Design Kirsten Swenson, Assoc. Prof. of History Elizabeth Herbin-Triant and Prof. of History Michael Pierson put it together.
The next event is a Zoom talk scheduled for 11 a.m. on Oct. 14, with Belinda Archibong, assistant professor of economics at Barnard College and Columbia University on “Climate Change, Epidemics and Human Capital Outcomes: Who Bears the Cost of Climate Change?”
Davis had been tapped as the 2019 Greeley Scholar but illness forced her to cancel. COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the appearance by the University of Regina’s Amber Fletcher, the 2020 Greeley Scholar whose research melds sociology, gender and public policy studies to examine the everyday effects of macro-level changes in policy and climate.
The Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies award honors a distinguished advocate for peace, a noted humanitarian or faith leader who is asked to serve in limited residency at the university during one semester each year. Previous scholars include Nobel Peace Prize winners Tawakkol Abdel-Salam Khalid Karman and Leymah Gbowee.