In this context, we focused in on trying to get Congressman John Lewis to come to the University of Michigan to discuss his graphic novel March. In many respects, this was a great fit for our triad of attention to graphic novels (adding to Art Spiegelman's Maus and Joe Sacco's Palestine who were each brought in separate events). It was something that touched upon conflict as it depicted not only the anti-black discrimination and repression of the period but also the immense effort of the civil rights movement taken against these activities/institutions.
The task was not easy. We needed some money for he and his team were not going to be free. We thus reached out and worked with the King-Chavez-Parks Visiting Professors Program as part of the regular Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series. Additional support is provided by the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Department of Psychology; Department of Political Science; Institute for the Humanities; National Center for Institutional Diversity; Office of Community-Engaged Academic Learning; Rackham Graduate School; and Office of Research.
We also wanted to push past the usual dynamic of just having someone come in to give a talk and then leave. We wanted the keynote to simply be part of a larger wave of attention/awareness/activity/thought - this we called "Marching Forward". Toward this end, Michelle worked on putting together a teaching/reading guide so that people could think about how to teach about the topic. Book clubs started to be created by diverse institutions/individuals in order to prepare them for what was coming. We put together a research and scholarship symposium in order to take advantage of all the local expertise that existed on repression and resistance. Someone even facilitated a comic contest so that the local community could show what they could do. The flyer itself was a work of art.
The events involved were incredible. Once the momentum was started, the whole community got involved:
“Get in the Way” Free Public Screening (5:10pm, Thursday, September 21, 2017): In place of the previously scheduled talk by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, the Penny Stamps School of Art & Design will present a free screening of the PBS Documentary “Get in the Way” at the Michigan Theater. This 2017 film chronicles the journey of civil rights hero, congressman, and human rights champion John Lewis.
Non-Violent Action Workshop (10am-5pm, September 24, 2017): Learn about national and international examples of nonviolent movements; key research about the effectiveness and outcomes of nonviolent movements; strategies and tactics; and different roles and leadership within nonviolent movements. Free and open to all U-M undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. Lunch and snacks will be provided.
“Over/come(ing)” Art Series Opening with Juliet Seignious (October 6, 2017): Please join the Office of Community-Engaged Academic Learning (CEAL) on Friday, October 6, 4:30-6pm for an art exhibition inspired by the graphic novel series March. Juliet’s stunning art evoke the connections between past and current social justice and civil rights protests. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Center for the Education of Women Spectrum of Advocacy and Activism Symposium (8:30am- 7:30pm, November 15, 2017): This event will demonstrate how a person’s activism can change over time, how advocacy is tied to a person’s context and situational power, and how partnering with diverse perspectives can strengthen advocacy and activism efforts. Health outcomes has been selected as the theme for this year’s symposium. Events will be held in the Michigan League and Rackham Auditorium. See the CEW website for details.
Blood at the Root (7:30pm, Thursday, November 16, 2017): This play, performed at the School of Music, Theater and Dance, is based on the true case of the Jena Six in 2006. It explores the nature of racial bias and whether justice is truly blind. (Arthur Miller Theater, 1226 Murfin Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109)
“I Am Not Your Negro” Screening (November 21, 2017): Join the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ) at 7pm on Nov. 21 at Ann Arbor Friends Meeting House (1420 Hill Street) for a free and public screening and discussion of this powerful documentary film. Filmmaker Raoul Peck imagines the book that James Baldwin never finshed about his three assassinated friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. Baldwin’s deeply personal notes for the project have never been published before.
Comics as a Social Justice Medium (1-2:30pm, November 27, 2017): Nate Powell, the graphic artist behind March will give a presentation followed by a 30 minute Q&A. (Ann Arbor District Library, 343 South 5th Ave., Ann Arbor)
This outpouring was in part a testament to the pull of Congressman Lewis and the power of his graphic novel in captivating/educating but it was also a testament to the various members of the community who stepped up and in. The event took a village to create it for the village to experience it and perhaps beyond this specific one to yours. This was event precisely the kind of energy that was needed then but it was also the kind of energy that we need now.
By the time of the event (provided in the link below) people were so jazzed that extra venues needed to be identified so that it could be shown remotely.