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Exhibitions and Performances

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen speaks about his new book, "The Refugees," at the First Year Book event at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018.

By Samantha Hawkins
For The Diamondback

A Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist urged University of Maryland students on Tuesday to seek out and share the stories of refugees and other groups who often feel unwanted in their home country and in the United States.

“We live in an age of narrative scarcity,” said Viet Thanh Nguyen, the best-selling author of The Sympathizer, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016.

People should have access to a variety of voices, Nguyen said, from refugees and minorities to women and the LGBT community. He calls this “narrative plentitude.”

Nguyen’s new book, The Refugees, was selected as this university’s 2018-19 First Year Book. The book is a collection of short stories from twenty years of documenting the hardships of relocation and explores what it means to belong somewhere.His visit is part of the “Year of Immigration,” an initiative by this university to increase dialogue about global migration and refugees.

A MacArthur Fellow and professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California, Nguyen has been called the “voice to the previously voiceless” by The New York Times, though he claims this is not praise.

“Have you met a Vietnamese person? We’re not voiceless. We talk all the time. We’re not heard,” Nguyen said. “Justice is not about elevating voices for the voiceless. It’s about creating a condition where all voices are heard.”

The lecture comes at a time when immigration has become a significant part of the national conversation. Two migrant caravans from Central America are currently making their way to the U.S., and President Trump has threatened to shutter the border in response.

Earlier this year, following the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement of a “zero tolerance” policy for immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, several thousand migrant children were separated from their parents. The policy has caused significant national backlash.

Nguyen has experienced family separation first-hand. He and his family, who fled war-torn Vietnam in 1975 when he was 4 years old, were forced to separate so they could leave the refugee camp they were staying in. Nguyen was taken to live with a sponsor — a white family — while his parents and brother were sent somewhere else. Months later, they were reunited.

“I know the feeling of terror from being abandoned. That memory has never gone away,” Nguyen said. “That’s how I know that children at the border are going to be forever marked from being taken away from their parents.”

“Closing the borders is not a solution,” Nguyen said. Instead the United States should be setting an example for the world by taking in refugees and asylum-seekers. “Refugees and undocumented immigrants are going to keep on coming, and if we actually had a sensible policy, we wouldn’t be confronted with the crisis we have today.”

Nguyen describes himself growing up as being “born in Vietnam but made in America.” Never really sure of how to identify himself, Nguyen didn’t claim the term “Asian-American” as his own until he reached college.

Many students in the nearly full auditorium at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center could relate to Nguyen’s message. Kak Wong, a physics graduate student from Hong Kong, said that though Nguyen’s experience is different than his, he still connected to the speaker’s story.

“Now that I’m in America, I am transitioning into Asian-American,” Wong said. “I’m still at that junction of crisis where I don’t really know where I’m at.”

James Ozaki, a University of Illinois student living in Washington D.C. this semester for an internship at the Smithsonian, is Japanese-American, and his grandparents were incarcerated during World War II. That helped him connect with what Nguyen was saying.

“This impacts me in the sense that it makes it personal,” he said. "And that continuing narrative throughout history that he mentioned? It’s the same story.”

 

4/14/18

By Morgan Politzer | Stories Beneath the Shell

"National Public Radio political correspondent Mara Liasson led a discussion Wednesday night about dealing with hate, bias and the changing world of political reporting under Trump.

"Liasson has been a political correspondent for NPR for over 30 years. She discussed how the political landscape has changed since President Trump took office, as well as the impact his actions have had on both a national and international scale."

Read the complete article in Stories Beneath the Shell.

Photo by Morgan Politzer via Stories Beneath the Shell.

Contact: K. Lorraine Graham, Communications Manager, klgraham@umd.edu

COLLEGE PARK, Md. —Acclaimed political journalist Mara Liasson will conclude the 2017-18 Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series, hosted by the College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU) at the University of Maryland (UMD). The event will be held at 5:30 p.m. on April 11 at the Gildenhorn Recital Hall in The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

Liasson is National Public Radio’s (NPR) political correspondent and an award-winning journalist with over 30 years of experience reporting on the White House and Congress. Her lecture will focus on “The Political Landscape: Dealing with Hate and Bias in Washington.”

Prior to serving as NPR’s political correspondent, she was their White House correspondent during the Clinton Administration. Liasson covered six presidential elections, from Bill Clinton in 1992 to Barack Obama in 2012. She is also a contributor to Fox News.

The theme of the 2017-18 Dean’s Lecture Series is “Courageous Conversations: ARHU Resists Hate & Bias.” This year’s speakers consider what it means to engage in courageous conversations that speak to the difficult issues of hate and bias across personal, historical and political frames.

The first lecture featured poet and social justice activist Theo Wilson, and the second lecture featured Bobby Seale, founding co-chairman and national organizer of the Black Panther Party. Each lecture is an opportunity for the campus and the UMD community to join together for dialogue on these complex issues.

This lecture is co-sponsored with the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. For free tickets or more information, visit go.umd.edu/liasson or call (301) 405-ARTS.

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ABOUT THE SERIES

The Dean's Lecture Series provides an opportunity for the college faculty, students and staff to join together to discuss issues that cross ARHU disciplines. Lectures and performances may address enduring or emerging questions central to the arts and humanities, or questions arising from other disciplines that the arts and humanities may be affected by. Each lecturer interacts in smaller settings with faculty, graduate students and undergraduates.

2/2/18

By Jillian Atelsek | The Diamondback

"As he arrived at the podium to deafening applause and a standing ovation, Bobby Seale raised his hands, stepped back and chuckled.

"'Reminds me of the '60s,' he said.

"Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, a political activist and a cultural icon, spoke at the University of Maryland on Thursday night about organized resistance and strength in the face of discrimination and oppression.

"'I don't believe in riots,' he said. 'I believe in organizing. I believe in putting my machine together.'"

Read the complete article in The Diamondback.

Photo: Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale addressed University of Maryland students and faculty on Thursday, Feb. 1. (Richard Moglen/The Diamondback)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Over 150 people filled the Gildenhorn Recital Hall at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night to hear award-winning slam poet and social justice advocate Theo Wilson, who appeared as part of the University of Maryland College of Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series.

Wilson skyrocketed to social media fame after posting beliefs about hate and bias. During his lecture, he discussed his experiences as a black man in an increasingly digital and racially charged world.

Wilson went undercover in white supremacist online communities to “get a gist of the gathering storm” because “nothing is more dangerous for black people than white supremacy.”

While undercover, he learned how social media creates digital echo chambers that steer users toward content that affirms their ideological beliefs. He also learned about the dangers of groupthink, a psychological phenomenon in which a group of people make irrational decisions based on the desire for harmony. Noticing how alt-right online communities gained momentum through these realities propelled his career as an activist.

Throughout the lecture, he detailed events that changed the way he thought about his own race. From the racially motivated bombings at Florida A&M University, a historically black college, in 1999, to the election of George W. Bush in 2001, Wilson described how race permeated his everyday life.

Wilson began his public speaking career in the NAACP at the age of 15, and has always had a passion for social justice. He helped found the Denver Slam Nuba team, which won the National Poetry Slam in 2011. Wilson also performed at this year’s TEDxMileHigh event.

He concluded his lecture by reciting a slam poem called “Impossible,” which expressed the possibility of the impossible and the barriers African Americans have overcome. The poem captivated the audience as Wilson proclaimed “My breath is like humanity/ Limitless/ Unbounded/ And impossibly free.”

During a question and answer session moderated by Linda Aldoory, associate dean for research and programming, Wilson responded to questions about slam poetry, his personal utopia and a world without racism.

Wilson ended his performance by reminding the audience that “there’s this new generation that has this attitude that’s unbreakable,” and encouraged the continuation of self-expression.

MEDIA ALERT

Description: The first lecture in the “2017-18 Dean’s Lecture Series: Courageous Conversations, ARHU Resists Hate And Bias” features Theo Wilson, the award-winning slam poet and social justice advocate who skyrocketed to social media fame after posting beliefs about hate and bias. Wilson will discuss his experience as a black man who went undercover in alt-right social media communities.

Who: Theo Wilson is a founding member of the Denver Slam Nuba team, which won the National Poetry Slam in 2011. He is also the executive director of Shop Talk Live, an organization that hosts community dialogues in barbershops and beauty salons on issues affecting African-American communities. In 2015, Wilson went undercover online to better understand the ideologies and social-media algorithms that inform the alt-right.

What: Award-winning slam poet and social justice advocate Theo Wilson discusses his experience as a black man who went undercover in alt-right social media communities.

When: Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 5:30 PM

Where: Gildenhorn Recital Hall. Located at the base of the grand staircase off the main lobby of The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

3800 The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

8270 Alumni Drive

University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-1625

Why: This event is the first lecture in the “2017-18 Dean’s Lecture Series: Courageous Conversations, ARHU Resists Hate And Bias.” Future lecturers include Bobby Seale, founding chairman and national organizer of the Black Panther Party, and Mara Liasson, NPR political correspondent. This year’s speakers consider what it means to engage in courageous conversations that speak to the difficult issues of hate and bias across personal, political and historical frames. Each lecture is an opportunity for the campus and the UMD community to join together for provocative conversations about resisting these issues.

How: The event is free but tickets are required. Members of the press should contact Nicky Everette, Director of Marketing and Communications, to RSVP.

ABOUT THE SERIES:

The Arts & Humanities Dean's Lecture Series provides an opportunity for the college faculty, students and staff to join together with colleagues across campus for stimulating conversation about issues that cross our disciplines. Lectures and performances may address either enduring or emerging questions central to the arts and humanities, or questions arising from other disciplines to which the arts and humanities might speak. In addition to presenting a major public event, each lecturer interacts in smaller settings with faculty, graduate students and/or undergraduates.

 

The College of Arts and Humanities and Maryland Humanities presented Pulitzer Prize-winning author-historians Taylor Branch and Isabel Wilkerson in conversation with Sherrilyn Ifill.

As part of the Pulitzer Prizes’ Centennial Celebration, the College of Arts and Humanities and Maryland Humanities present Pulitzer Prize-winning author-historians Taylor Branch and Isabel Wilkerson. Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund will moderate a discussion between the two on the historical context behind their work and its  relevancy to our lives today. A book signing and reception will follow the event.

Who: The event will feature Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “America in the King Years,” a landmark history of the civil rights era, and Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration."

What:  NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund’s Sherrilyn Ifill will moderate a discussion between the two authors on the historical context behind their Pulitzer Prize-winning work and its relevancy to our lives today.

When: Tuesday, December 6, 2016. 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Where: Kay Theatre, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, 8270 Alumni Dr, College Park, Maryland, 20742

Why: This reading and conversation is co-presented by the College of Arts and Humanities and Maryland Humanities for the WORLDWISE: Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series, which provides an opportunity for the college faculty, students and staff to join together with colleagues across campus for stimulating conversation about issues that cross our disciplines. Lectures and performances may address either enduring or emerging questions central to the arts and humanities, or questions arising from other disciplines to which the arts and humanities might speak.

This event is part of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Initiative, a joint venture of The Pulitzer Prize Board and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. Sponsored in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

How: The event is free but tickets are required. Members of the press should contact Nicky Everette, Director of Marketing and Communications, to RSVP.

Contact: Nicky Everette, meve@umd.edu, 301-405-6714

ABOUT THE COLLEGE OF ARTS AND HUMANITIES:

The College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland is home to nearly 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 14 academic departments, 20 independent research centers and nearly 300 tenured and tenure-track faculty. The college connects students with expert scholars who teach how to investigate, reflect and analyze the world around them, past and present. Through interdisciplinary approaches to the arts and humanities, students develop into global visionaries and creative problem solvers who thrive in a world of rapidly evolving opportunities. For more information, visit www.arhu.umd.edu.

 

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