The Centering Race Consortium holds first virtual event in series on "Monuments, Murals & Movements"

Speakers from left to right: (TOP) Daniel Magaziner (Yale); Juliet Hooker (Brown); Renee Ater (Brown). (BOTTOM) Crystal Feimster (Yale); Moderator Stephen Pitti...

The Centering Race Consortium's focus on monuments, murals, and movements allows us to discuss the questions of power and commemoration. The title of writer Natasha Tretheway’s new memoir, Memorial Drive, is a perfect example of the way that places at once are actual, and imagined. The aptly named road exists in Atlanta, where her mother was murdered, and the name also indexes the human need or 'drive' to remember.

CCSRE Director Jennifer DeVere Brody

Marking the first public event organized by the Centering Race Consortium (CRC), a multicampus collaboration between race-focused centers at Brown, Stanford, Yale and Chicago, the speakers at last Friday's webinar, "Monuments, Murals, and Movements: Reimagining the Art of Social Justice," delve into the significance of public monuments that reinforce white supremacy as well as the counter-narratives based in grassroots movements to reclaim, remove, or replace them.

"The stories we tell about the past have immense power. They shape public events, laws and the world we envision for the future," stated speaker Crystal Feimster, Professor of African American Studies, History and American Studies at Yale, calling to question the 120 confederate monuments and thirty-three statues of Christopher Columbus, and many others that imbue the current cultural landscape.
In an example of reclaiming such monuments, Renée Ater, Professor Emerita of American Arts at the University of Maryland and Provost's visiting professor at Brown, shared the work of artist Dustin Klein, who projected the face of George Floyd and the acronym "BLM" on the monument to General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, VA, during summer 2020 protests against police brutality and anti-black racism.
In fact, Ater noted, Klein's projection of a portrait of Harriet Tubman along with her quote "Slavery is the next thing to hell" remained projected during one of the most violent evenings of protest. "Can you have healing through a projection?" asked Ater, "Can you reclaim a monument?"
Along similar lines, speaker Juliet Hooker, Professor of Political Science at Brown, added, "What does memorialization mean as we're trying to foster an anti-racist political identity?" Hooker continued, "We need places to reflect on a city's racist past." Offering a transnational perspective, speaker Daniel Magaziner, Professor of History at Yale, assessed the aftermath of fallen and reclaimed monuments in South Africa.

Crystal Feimster asked how we discipline our history and reshape the cultural landscape in the midst of the rise and fall of historical monuments.

"The speakers brought to this conversation deep understandings of academic fields and current debates about public art, and their comments made clear that we all benefit from careful and sustained intellectual engagement about social and racial justice issues,"said moderator Stephen Pitti, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration at Yale and member of the Centering Race Consortium.

It was great to bring experts together from different campuses, and to hear them respond to one another's expertise and insights. The panelists shared not only what they know about monuments and public memorials from the academic scholarship, but also what they had learned about those topics from activists who are deeply involved in today's public debates," Pitti said.

Save the date for the next webinar in the CRC series to be held on November 6. Find more details in the events section below.