Obermann Around the Table: Listening to the Past, Sharing Thoughts on the Present, Imagining a More Just Future

Sunday, October 11, 2020 - 4:00pm
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The Obermann Center for Advanced Studies is launching a new series entitled Obermann Around the Table--in honor of much missed in-person conversations in our library. Our hope is that the series will provide a welcoming, nonjudgmental space in which colleagues, neighbors, and new friends can address difficult subjects that impact our communities and reflect on ways to move toward more just and generous communities.

In the first event of the series, we will reflect on the theme Finding Your Place in Conflicted Histories. After a brief welcome, we will begin the program with a 10-minute live play, A Refugee in Detroit, written by Keith Josef Adkins and performed by actors from the UI Theatre Arts Department. UI Professor Jessica Welburn Paige will then share her research on Black Resilience in Detroit for 20 minutes. Fueled by these fascinating glimpses of communities responding to conflict, we will break into groups of 8 participants to share our thoughts and our own experiences of living in a moment that calls on us to form more resilient, inclusive, and just communities. The groups will be facilitated by trained graduate students and will last approximately 50 minutes, after which the group will reconvene for a brief thank you to our performers and presenter. All are welcome.

A Refugee in Detroit is part of 6 by 6: Collected Perspectives on Social Justice, a series of 10-minute plays produced by the Department of Theatre Arts. The short piece was written by UI alumni Keith Josef Adkins, a playwright and screenwriter whose plays include The West End, scheduled to premiere in 2021 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; The People Before the Park, scheduled for 2021 production at the University of Iowa; Pitbulls (Rattlestick NYC); Safe House (St. Louis Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Aurora); and The Last Saint on Sugar Hill (National Black Theater, MPAACT). He was recently commissioned by the Apollo Theater in New York City to help curate their inaugural season at their new Victoria Theater. He is the recipient of the Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, Samuel French's Award for Impact and Activism in the Theater Community, as well as National Black Theater's Teer Spirit Award. He is also the artistic director of The New Black Fest, a 10-year-old theater organization committed to fostering insurgent voices from the African Diaspora. His TV credits include P-Valley on Starz, Netflix's Outer Banks, ABC's For The People, and The Good Fight on CBS, and he's currently developing TV projects with JJ Abrams's Bad Robot and Regina King’s Royal Ties with Netflix. 

Professor Welburn Paige (Sociology and African American Studies) will share discoveries from her book project, Keep on Pushin’.  The book is drawn from in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations, as Welburn Paige explores how working-class and middle-class African Americans in Detroit, Michigan, navigate the city’s crumbling infrastructure. A former Obermann Fellow-in-Residence, Welburn Paige's research and teaching focus on the experiences of African Americans in the post-Civil Rights era. She asks how African Americans conceptualize their social mobility prospects and their strategies for navigating persistent racism and discrimination. Welburn Paige thus gives voice to the ways Black citizens have responded to economic and racial tensions in Detroit by finding ways to thrive--from creating tight-knit communities to planting urban gardens. 

These two opening presentations will be followed by small group conversations facilitated by graduate students as participants share responses, experiences, and possibilities.

Please register to receive the Zoom link: https://uiowa.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIqfumppj4jHNHPvvsuhwm3Mfw2142zMyU5

This event is presented in collaboration with the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the Department of Sociology and Criminology, and Department of Theatre Arts. All are welcome, but registration is required. 

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Erin Hackathorn in advance at erin-hackathorn@uiowa.edu or (319) 335-4034.