OSI-Baltimore’s Talking About Race Series

Posted on March 22nd, 2016 at 11:03 am

To see listings for upcoming Talking About Race events, go here.

OSI-Baltimore has been presenting this free, public series since 2009 as a way of sparking conversations about how race intersects with our lives. They generally attract crowds of about 250 people.

Not a Crime to be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America

March 8, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Church of the Redeemer

Peter Edelman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy and the faculty director of the Center on Poverty and Inequality at Georgetown University Law Center and Lester Spence, Associate Professor, Political Science and Africana Studies, Johns Hopkins University and Co-Director of the Center for Africana Studies discuss Edelman’s book, Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America. In it, Edelman shows how not having money has been criminalized in the U.S. Through money bail systems, fees and fines, strictly enforced laws and regulations against behavior including trespassing and public urination that largely affect the homeless, and the substitution of prisons and jails for the mental hospitals that have traditionally served the impoverished, we have effectively made it a crime to be poor.

Race, Identity, and Sports

November 8, 2017, 7:00 p.m. Moot Courtroom, John and Frances Angelos Law Center, University of Baltimore

The controversies around Colin Kaepernick and widespread protests in the NFL have brought to the surface ever-present tensions, often ignored or glossed over, about the role race and identity play in sports. We’ll examine those tensions and how to build on them with Kevin Merida, the founder of The Undefeated, ESPN’s platform for discussions of race, sports, and culture and Tanisha Wright, a 12-year WNBA veteran, now an assistant coach at the University of Charlotte, who led her New York Liberty teammates in activism supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

Policing Black Men: A Conversation with Paul Butler

October 3, 2017, 7:00 p.m. Moot Courtroom, John and Frances Angelos Law Center, University of Baltimore

OSI Criminal and Juvenile Justice Director Tara Huffman hosts a conversation with Georgetown Law Professor and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler, author of the new book, “Chokehold: Policing Black Men.” The New York Times describes“Chokehold” as “the most readable and provocative account of the consequences of the war on drugs since Michelle Alexander’s ‘The New Jim Crow.’” Butler suggests that the criminal justice system, in targeting black men, is not malfunctioning but performing exactly as designed. “Cops routinely hurt and humiliate black people because that is what they are paid to do,” he writes. “The police, as policy, treat African-Americans with contempt.” Ultimately, changing the status quo requires not just “reform” of the current system, he claims, but a wholesale reinvention.

Watch the event here.

Harm Reduction and Communities of Color

June 8, 2017, 6:30 p.m. Moot Courtroom, John and Frances Angelos Law Center, University of Baltimore

Panelists will discuss the historical tensions between drug policy advocates and communities of color, which have carried the heaviest burden in both health consequences and criminal justice responses to drug use. The panel will talk about existing harm reduction practices in communities of color and  how resistance to polices like syringe exchange, heroin maintenance programs, free testing of drugs, and safe injection facilities harms communities most impacted by drug use.

The discussion will include Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA); Dr. Samuel Roberts, Associate Professor of History at Columbia University and Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; Miriam Alvarez, Outreach Coordinator at Behavioral Health System Baltimore; Rajani Gudlavalleti, Community Organizer; and Scott Nolen, Director of OSI-Baltimore’s Drug Addiction Treatment program.

Watch a full video of the event here.

Rethinking Crime and Punishment in Black America: A Conversation with James Forman, Jr.

April 17, 20177:00 p.m. Moot Courtroom, John and Frances Angelos Law Center, University of Baltimore

Yale legal scholar and former public defender James Forman, Jr. talks about his new book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (which the New York Times calls “superb and stunning”), with University of Baltimore Law School Dean Ron Weich, U.S. Court of Appeals Senior Judge and OSI-Baltimore Advisory Board Member Andre M. Davis, and University of Baltimore Law School Professor Odeana Neal. As Forman describes, the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office in the 1970s amid a surge in crime and addiction. Many worried that the civil rights victories would be undermined by lawlessness and thus embraced tough sentencing and police tactics. The policies they adopted had devastating consequences for poor black neighborhoods. Co-presented with the University of Baltimore School of Law as part of OSI-Baltimore’s Talking About Race series.

Watch the video here.

Civil Rights in the Trump Era: Lessons from  History

March 22, 2017, 7:00 p.m. Moot Courtroom, John and Frances Angelos Law Center, University of Baltimore

How can a thorough understanding of the African-American-led freedom movement of the 1950s and 60s inform those looking to create a new sustaining civil rights movement to defend communities threatened by new federal and local policies? Eminent historian Taylor Branch, author of the seminal trilogy America in the King Years and a member of OSI-Baltimore’s Advisory Board, discusses what defenders of democracy from America’s past can teach today’s activists about resisting threats to open society. Co-presented with the University of Baltimore College of Public Affairs.

Listen to the event here.

The Mythology of Black Criminology: A Screening and Discussion of “13th”

March 7, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Moot Courtroom, John and Frances Angelos Law Center, University of Baltimore

A screening and disucssion of the landmark documentary “13th,” directed by Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), which examines racial disparities in the criminal justice system as an ongoing form of slavery (officially outlawed by the 13th Amendment). Panelists include Nkechi Taifa, advocacy director for criminal justice at Open Society Foundations, Willie Flowers, President of the Howard County NAACP and executive director of the Park Heights Community Health Alliance, and Walter Lomax, executive director of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative. Co-presented with the Baltimore City Office of the Public Defender and the University of Baltimore College of Public Affairs.

Confronting the New Wave of Islamophobia

June 23, 2016, 7 p.m., Turpin-Lamb Theatre at Morgan State University’s Murphy Fine Arts Center

The recent mass shooting in Orlando has sparked a spike in anti-Muslim bigotry, which had already been soaring as a result of the hateful rhetoric of the current election season. To help discuss ways to reverse the trend, we talk with Deepa Iyer, senior fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion and author of “We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future,” Kameelah Rashad, the Muslim Chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of the Muslim Wellness Foundation, and Tariq Toure, a Baltimore activist, essayist, poet, and author of “Black Seeds:  The Poetry and Reflections of Tariq Toure.” Amardeep Singh, program officer in Open Society Foundation’s National Security and Human Rights Campaign, will moderate.

Black Politics and Neoliberalism

June 7, 2016, 7 p.m.,Turpin-Lamb Theatre at Morgan State University’s Murphy Fine Arts Center

In his recent book, “Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics,” Johns Hopkins University political science professor Lester Spence charts the negative effects of the capitalist “hustle harder” mentality on African-American communities and suggests new pathways to igniting the black political imagination. Spence will talk with Bret McCabe, a senior writer at Johns Hopkins Magazine who published an extended profile of Spence in the Winter 2015 issue.

A History of Segregation

October 27, 2015, 7 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Elizabeth Nix, a professor at the University of Baltimore, will bring examples of structural racism and white privilege to light by talking about the history of Baltimore and how that history has resulted in discriminatory patterns and policies and segregation in Baltimore.

Listen to the podcast here.

Rights for Domestic Workers

October 15, 2015, 7 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA, will talk about structural changes in the job market that have resulted in many day laborers, especially among immigrants and people of color. They will focus especially on how we can help build power, respect, and fair labor standards for the 2.5 million nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers in the United States. Rachel Micah-Jones, founder and executive director of CDM: Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, will moderate.

Listen to the podcast here.

Media Bias and Black Communities

September 29, 2015, 7 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

In the wake of the killing of Freddie Gray and the subsequent uprising, many media outlets focused on tired stereotypes about black criminality rather than the years of oppression that sparked the protests. Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change, and Stacey Patton, reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, will talk about how dehumanizing media coverage can reinforce bias and negatively impact black communities. Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director of the Free Press, will moderate.

Listen to the podcast here.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

February 26, 2015, 7:00p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Bryan Stevenson, one of the country’s most visionary legal thinkers and social justice advocates, talked about his new book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Among the first cases he took on was that of Walter McMillan, a black man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The book follows the suspenseful battle to free Walter before the state executes him, while also stepping back to tell the profoundly moving stories of men, women, and even children, who found themselves at the mercy of a system often incapable of showing it.


Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity

October 6, 2014, 7 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Race—more than any other demographic factor—determines levels of individual educational achievement, health and life expectancy, possibility of incarceration, and wealth in the United States. And we need to talk about it. Shakti Butler, filmmaker and racial justice educator, screened her film Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity and held a community dialogue.


Fire Shut Up in My Bones

October 1, 2014, 7 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Charles M. Blow, New York Times op-ed columnist, spoke about his own extraordinary life story—growing up in segregated, dirt-poor Louisiana. Shawn Dove, director of the Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement served as moderator for the discussion.

Listen to the podcast here.

Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School & in Life

September 15, 2014, 7 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

As parents, Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster, M.D., recognized that regardless of how wealthy or poor their parents are, all black boys must confront and surmount the “achievement gap.” To understand why this occurred, they filmed their son, Idris, as he struggled through high school and produced an award-winning documentary, “American Promise”.  As shared in their new book, Promises Kept, they discussed the reasons for the gap; practical, innovative solutions to close it; and a call to action to eliminate it.

Listen to the podcast here.

My Brother’s Keeper: Can the President Make Progress for Boys and Men of Color?

June 10, 2014, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

With the support of 11 national foundations, My Brother’s Keeper is an initiative created by President Obama to advance the achievement of boys and young men of color. Damon Hewitt, Senior Advisor for Special Projects at the Open Society Foundations and Joe Jones, President /CEO of the Center for Urban Families, discussed how this largely symbolic effort could spark significant reform across the country and locally.

Listen to the podcast here.

Racial Differences in Arrests: Are Community-Police Partnerships a Solution?

Monday, June 17, 2013, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Russell, Chief of the Baltimore Police Department’s Community Partnerships Division, and Dr. Phillip Goff, Executive Director of Research for the Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity, spoke about race and community-police partnerships. They addressed some provocative issues: What are the underlying causes of racial differences in arrests?  What role does implicit bias play? Can communities and police work together in a meaningful way? Joe Jones, President /CEO of the Center for Urban Families and OSI-Baltimore board member, servee as moderator.


The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement

A conversation with Taylor Branch

Tuesday, January 29, 2013, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

As part of the Enoch Pratt Library and OSI-Baltimore’s Talking About Race series, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch spoke about his upcoming book, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. In his new book, he has selected eighteen essential moments from the Civil Rights Movement as presented in his America in the King Years trilogy, and has written new introductions to set each passage in historical context. “For nearly twenty-five years,” says Taylor Branch, “since publication of Parting the Waters, teachers have pressed upon me their need for more accessible ways to immerse students in stories of authentic detail and import…the goal here is to accommodate them and others by careful choice.”

 Listen to the podcast here.

The House I Live In: Film screening and discussion

Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 7:00 p.m., The Charles Theater

Filmed in more than twenty states, The House I Live In tells the stories of individuals at all levels of America’s War on Drugs. From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside America’s criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.


David Simon, creator of The Wire, introduced The House I Live In. The film was followed by a conversation with the director, writer and producer of The House I Live In, Eugene Jarecki, and Judge Andre Davis, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.


Racial Anxiety and Unconscious Bias: How it Affects Us All

Thursday, September 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

What we don’t know can hurt us and others—and unconscious bias, along with racial anxiety, can unwittingly affect our responses and behavior.  The examples revealed in provocative new research may surprise you—embedded stereotypes, it concludes, are experienced by people of color and whites alike.  Understanding these biases is critical, especially for people in positions of power where critical decisions are made—in the classroom, in the court room, and in the doctor’s office.


Rachel Godsil, Director of Research at the American Values Institute and Alan Jenkins, Executive Director of The Opportunity Agenda, presented some of the most recent research and reports on this topic.

 Listen to the podcast here.

Slavery By Another Name Film Screening and Discussion

Thursday, May 22, 2012, 7:00 p.m., MICA’s Brown Center

Slavery By Another Name is an enormously powerful film that brings to light a period of history, largely ignored, in which many negative stubborn stereotypes—those that still plague society—were deliberately born.  In addition to a screening of the film, 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner Douglas Blackmon, author of the book of the same name, discussed Slavery By Another Name, along with two descendants featured in the film, Sharon Malone and Susan Burnore.


Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means to Be Black Now

Monday, December 5, 2011, 7:30 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Author Touré discussed his provocative new book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means to Be Black Now with special guest commentator Michael Eric Dyson. Touré’s book was acclaimed by the New York Times as “one of the most acutely observed accounts of what it is like to be young, black and middle-class in contemporary America.”

 Listen to the podcast here.

Breaking the Barriers: Helping Black Males Achieve Academic Success

Thursday, October 20, 2011, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Ivory Toldson, associate professor at Howard University, and Raymond Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, talked about what educators, parents and families can do to ensure that African American boy succeed. Shawn Dove, campaign manager for the Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement, served as moderator.

 Listen to the podcast here.

Do White Americans Get Better Health Care than People of Color?

Thursday, September 15, 2011, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Michelle Gourdine, physician and author of Reclaiming Our Health: A Guide to African American Wellness, and Thomas LaVeist, director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Disparities Solutions, discussed the inequities that exist in our current medical care system and offered solutions for change.



Refugees in Their Own Country: Race and the Great Migration

Wednesday, January 12, 2011, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

For almost 55 years, thousands upon thousands of black Americans from the South left their homes in search of a better future for themselves and their children. Sherrilyn Ifill, Civil Rights lawyer and OSI-Baltimore board member, interviewed Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.


Truth and Reconciliation: A Community Comes to Grips with Its Past

Thursday, November 4, 2010, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library
Commissioner Rev. Mark Sills and Rev. Nelson Johnson and his wife Joyce Johnson discussed the lessons learned from the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The conversation was moderated by Judge Andre Davis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.


Is Justice Possible in a Race Biased Society?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Bryan Stevenson founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and professor at New York University School of Law, and Renée Hutchins, professor at the University of Maryland Law School, discussed how race affects attitudes and outcomes in the criminal justice system.


Is America Really Post-Racial? A Screening of New Muslim Cool

Tuesday, March 2, 2010, 7:00 p.m., Brown Center, Maryland Institute College of Art

An interactive spoken word performance, film screening, and panel discussion, this event examined the emerging worldview of a new generation of Americans. After the screening of New Muslim Cool, Bakari Kitwana, author of The Hip-Hop Generation, moderated a panel discussion. The panel included Nura Maznavi, staff attorney from Muslim Advocates; filmmaker Jennifer Taylor; and independent hip-hop artist MC Hamza—the subject of the film.


Stoop Stories: Talking About Race

Monday, February 22, 2010, 7:00 p.m., CENTERSTAGE

In partnership with OSI-Baltimore, Stoop Stories, a theme-based performance series produced by Laura Wexler and Jessica Henkin, presented “Across the Divide: Stories about Race in Baltimore,” a show about being black and white in Baltimore. The show featured seven storytellers who got seven minutes each to tell a true, personal story about race. Audience members also had a chance to participate.


How Does White America Talk About Race?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Why is race still an uncomfortable subject to talk about in the United States? At this event Rich Benjamin, author of Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America, and Tim Wise, author of Between Barack & A Hard Place: Racism & White Denial in the Age of Obama, discussed white America’s struggle to talk about race.


Can We Talk About How Race Affects our Classrooms?

Monday, November 2, 2009, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College and author of Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation, which discusses how American schools are experiencing increasing and underreported resegregation, spoke with David Hornbeck, former Philadelphia Superintendent of Schools and author of Choosing Excellence in Public Schools: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way, about how race plays out in our classrooms.


Do We Still Need to Talk About Race?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 7:30 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

With the election of President Obama, some say race is no longer an obstacle to success and that the “American Dream” is more reality than not. At this discussion, Ben Jealous, executive director of the NAACP, and Gerald Torres, professor at the University of Texas Law School and co-author of The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy, challenged this assumption.


Talking About Race Now: How to Build Success Without Forgetting the Struggle

Thursday, June 4, 2009, 7:00 p.m., Enoch Pratt Free Library

Gwen Ifill of Washington Week and The News Hour and Sherrilyn A. Ifill, civil rights lawyer and law professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, discussed this pivotal moment in American history and its potential for advancing equity and social justice.


Film Screening: The Black List: Volume Two

Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 7:00 p.m., Brown Center, Maryland Institute College of Art

In partnership with MICA, the Maryland Film Festival, and the Enoch Free Pratt Library, the Open Society Institute-Baltimore presented The Black List: Volume Two, an HBO documentary featuring dramatic portraits of some of today’s most fascinating and influential African Americans, who share their stories and insights into the struggles and triumphs of black life in the United States. Filmmakers Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Elvis Mitchell introduced the film and participated in a Q & A session.


Across the Divide: Stories about Race in Baltimore Radio Series on WYPR

September 2009 – February 2010, “Maryland Morning” 88.1 FM


A series of short segments entitled “Across the Divide: Stories about Race in Baltimore,” produced by WYPR, aired on “Maryland Morning.” The series featured personal stories told about experiences around race issues that changed individuals’ lives. The series included stories from a number of prominent people as well as from listeners who submitted their own stories online.