Orange Alert

2022-23 Syracuse Symposium Addresses Timely Topics with Diverse Slate of Programming

The 19th annual Syracuse Symposium continues this spring semester with events centered around theme of “repair.”

Jan. 19, 2023, by Dan Bernardi

Repair graphic

Reparations for slavery. Environmental justice. Reproductive justice. Students, faculty, staff and the general public are invited to engage with these urgent topics and more throughout the spring semester thanks to the Syracuse University Humanities Center's Syracuse Symposium. The lineup of events, which includes film screenings, lectures, concerts, exhibits, workshops, and more, takes up this year’s Symposium theme of “repair.” Each program encourages participants to consider whether and when “repair” is possible, and how repair can help lead us to a more just world.

According to Vivian May, director of both the Humanities Center and Central New York Humanities Corridor, “repair” can take on many forms and meanings. For some, it might signify healing, mending or fixing on an intimate or personal level, while for others it can mean setting things right on a more structural level, to rectify historical wrongs. The spring semester’s diverse mix of events, featuring several community-engaged components, offers Syracuse University students, faculty and staff a range of opportunities to connect with and make an impact on the local community.

“Bridging scholarly inquiry with public impact, engaging wider communities in social justice matters and the public good, is at the core of what Syracuse University is all about—and certainly lies at the heart of Syracuse Symposium’s annual lineup,” observes May. She notes that “this year’s activities centered on ‘repair’ show how deeply the humanities are needed, in both educational and community settings, to confront complex questions of reparations, restitution, displacement, climate, and wellness in quite profound ways.”

This semester’s Syracuse Symposium events kick off with a two-day event featuring the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA). Founded in 2017 by Sara Trail, SJSA is a platform where individuals utilize textile art for personal transformation and community cohesion and to begin the journey toward becoming an agent of social change. Trail, who learned to sew at the age of 4, is now a successful author, sewing teacher and pattern and fabric designer. On January 27 at 6 p.m. she will visit the Community Folk Art Center (CFAC) in Syracuse to present a program titled Active Repair: Works from the Social Justice Sewing Academy. Her event will highlight the SJSA project, its history and impact, with a focus on how textile arts can contribute to repairing societal injustices.

On January 28 at 10 a.m., registrants are invited to create their own social justice quilt block in a day-long workshop at CFAC led by Social Justice Sewing Academy instructors. In addition, now through February 17, visitors can view SJSA quilts on display at CFAC, located at 805 E Genesee St., Syracuse. Trail’s visit is organized by Rachel Ivy Clarke, an associate professor in the School of Information Studies.

Other Symposium Highlights

Reparations NOW! The Department of African American Studies (AAS) will host a pair of film screenings in the Hall of Languages’ Kilian Room.

A screening of the documentary Banished (2008) will take place on Tuesday, February 7 at 5 p.m. This film details the efforts of descendants of Black residents who were "banished" from their towns as they seek reparations for the harm directed at their ancestors. Jennifer O'Reilly, visiting assistant teaching professor of African American Studies, will moderate a discussion about the film.

The Price of Memory (2014) will be screened on Thursday, February 9 at 5 p.m. This film contrasts the £20 million Britain paid to compensate Caribbean slaveholders in the 19th century with contemporary demands for redress from descendants of Jamaican slaves. Joan Bryant, associate professor of African American Studies, will moderate a conversation about this film.

SeQuoia Kemp portrait.
SeQuoia Kemp, founding member of Sankofa Reproductive Health and Healing Center, a Black woman led reproductive justice mission to end preventable death and illness in Black, African and Indigenous communities in Syracuse.

Reproductive Justice – Part of Environmental Storytelling CNY, a year-long exploration of the environmental humanities and arts organized by A&S’s Engaged Humanities Network and SUNY-ESF’s Writing, Rhetoric, and Communications Program, SeQuoia Kemp of the Sankofa Reproductive Health and Healing Center will take part in two Syracuse Symposium events.

Environmental Justice is Racial Justice is Reproductive Justice will trace out the relationship between environmental racism and reproductive justice and explain how the health of mothers is a key barometer of community health. Situated in the local Syracuse context, Kemp’s talk will center on mothers’ lived experiences. This event is Thursday, February 16 at 6 p.m. in the Community Engagement Room, Nancy Cantor Warehouse.

Kemp will also lead a Reproductive Justice Healing Circle, which offers members of the Syracuse community an opportunity to address intergenerational trauma in service of gaining greater reproductive justice for all. This event is Saturday, February 18 at 1 p.m. at the Salt Space, 103 Wyoming Street, Syracuse.

Community-Engaged Repair - The Department of Geography and the Environment, with support from the Engaged Humanities Network and Unlearning the Urban, will host Sara Safransky, assistant professor of human and organizational development at Vanderbilt University. Motivated by a concern for social and ecological justice, Safransky’s research centers around urban displacement and land justice.

Safransky’s first event, The Work of Repair: A Conversation About Community-Engaged and Participatory Research, is a workshop open to faculty, staff and students highlighting her community-engaged work in Detroit as a jumping off point for a broad conversation about how, why, and for whom research might take place. This event is Friday, February 24 at 12:30 p.m. in Eggers Hall (room 155).

Her second event, The City After Property: Abandonment and Repair in Post-Industrial Detroit, is a public lecture about the legacies of industrial decline in Detroit and the possibilities for creating a more just city. This event is Friday, February 24 at 3 p.m. in MacNaughton Hall (room 200).

Repair Works – Four composers whose music centers on the ideas of justice and identity will present a concert on March 26, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium, Newhouse III. Hosted by the Society for New Music and the Department of Art and Music Histories, the performance of “repair” works will feature Flannery Cunningham, Stacy Garrop, Anthony R. Green and James Gordon Williams. The concert is free to all SU students, faculty and staff with valid ID.

Nell Irvin Painter portrait.
Artist and historian Nell Irvin Painter will present a virtual talk on March 28.

An Evening with Nell Irvin Painter: African American History and Questions of Repair – The 40th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Public Memorial Lecture will feature a virtual talk by Nell Irvin Painter, Professor Emerita at Princeton University. Hosted by the Department of African American Studies, the program will explore issues of racial and gender identity and how they have figured into North American and Western history more broadly. Painter’s work urges us to look at history beyond the lines of difference and stereotype. The event on March 28 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. will feature a question-and-answer session and will be moderated by Herbert G. Ruffin II, associate professor of African American Studies.

Repair, Refuge, and Resilience through Art - CODE^SHIFT (Collaboratory for Data Equity, Social Healing, Inclusive Futures and Transformation) at the Newhouse School presents a showcase of media, art and storytelling created within immigrant and refugee communities in Syracuse and Richmond, VA. The event will feature work by the current cohort of Narratio Fellows, created in collaboration with artist Rina Banerjee, the 2023 Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities. The showcase is March 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Museum Studies Gallery at the Nancy Cantor Warehouse.

Climate Justice - George Lakey, a renowned champion of creating positive social change through nonviolent direct-action tactics, will take part in two events exploring climate justice as part of Environmental Storytelling CNY.

At the first event, Nonviolent Action from Civil Rights to Climate Justice, Lakey will share stories of how the Earth Quaker Action Team successfully mobilizes cross-sections of society to address structural challenges in the United States, and how people can create inclusive nonviolent campaigns. This event is April 13 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Bird Library (room 114).

Lakey’s second event, Climate Justice Nonviolent Action Campaign Training, will feature a discussion with Sarah Nahar, a Ph.D. candidate in religion, on how to craft nonviolent social change campaigns to be inclusive, powerful and successful. This event is April 14, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Community Folk Art Center.

Read more about Syracuse Symposium’s spring events.

Media Contact

Dan Bernardi