Freedom School is an annual day-long workshop, celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

Each year the Center for Peace and Justice Education hosts a Freedom School, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Inspired by the 1960’s movement which aimed to counter and boycott continuing segregation in public schools, Freedom School is a day-long workshop focusing on various topics surrounding MLK’s vision and work.  The entire Villanova community—staff, students, faculty—is invited to propose topics, and if accepted, to present during the one-day event.  Each session lasts about an hour. Topics  have included immigration, the possibilities and challenges of globalization, the rule of law and respect for human rights, affirmative action, education and social justice, peacebuilding and peacemaking, nonviolence and nonviolent social change, and the sins of racism and white supremacy.  



Please find the session topics and day's schedule below.


The Question of Palestine

Yumi Lee, Mary Mullen, and Jesse Schwartz – all Faculty, English 

This session borrows its title from the scholar and writer Edward Said, whose 1979 book The Question of Palestine sought to elucidate the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for American readers and outline possibilities for peace. This question has taken on a renewed urgency today, as escalating war in Gaza has claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions of civilians. What does it look like to contend with the question of Palestine in the present day? This workshop invites participants to learn together, engage in facilitated dialogue, and consider our own roles in seeking justice and engendering peace.


Unseen Faces of Those Who Dress Us: Looking at Ethical Purchasing from a Race, Class, and Gender Perspective

Kate Giancatarino, Center for the Common Good; Alayna Milby, Ethix Ventures/CEPA; Laura Moore, Graduate Student, Sustainable Engineering

This presentation is a collaborative work between the Center for the Common Good and the Catholic Ethical Purchasing Alliance (CEPA).  Alayna from CEPA will lay the groundwork of the textile industry and the impact it has on minoritized communities.  Kate and Laura will then speak about the work that is happening at Villanova to create a more ethical purchasing policy which is tied to the Sustainability Goals.  


Performance of Banned Books as Nonviolent Resistance

Heidi Rose, Faculty, Communication; Student Performers: Katie Tuberosa, Monica Gonzalez, Christian Carson, Zoë Magee, Kaleigh Brendle

Book bans and challenges are increasing across the US, from local school boards to state legislatures. Not only does book banning threaten free inquiry, a key principle of democratic society, it also jeopardizes the development of critical thinking and the ability to engage perspectives and experience beyond our own. In this session, students from Dr. Rose's COM 3241 Performance of Literature class give voice to passages from banned books, using the power of performance to challenge the motives of those who would silence these works and to discuss additional ways to ensure schools and libraries remain safe havens for free inquiry.


Engage in Conflict Management to Create Better Resolutions

Meg Willoughby, Office of the Provost

Explore your relationship with conflict.  The University Ombuds, a conflict management expert, will guide you in understanding your feelings about conflict, your default responses to it, and how you can develop other responsive options that will help you create better resolutions.  Leave feeling empowered to address the conflicts that interfere with your work and life.


Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding by Bishop Paride Taban in South Sudan and Martin Luther King Jr. in the U.S.

Theresa Gardner, Graduate Student, Theology and Religious Studies; Dan Griffin, Center for the Common Good

This session will look in depth at the work of Bishop Paride Taban, the founder of Juron Peace Village in South Sudan. This village was begun in 2005 and has since been recognized by the United Nations for its outstanding efforts, education, and advocacy in peacebuilding practices in the midst of the ever-present violence. We will explore the peace practices initiated by Bishop Taban and compare them to the peacebuilding efforts of Martin Luther King Jr., highlighting their exemplary work in the midst of violence and hate. Both men had to find solutions to conflicts between people with shared national identities but different ideological identities, which makes their comparison even more intriguing, impactful, and influential.


The Freedom to Read: Why Book Bans Must be Challenged

Julianna Chen, Graduate Student, Education & Counseling; Rachel Skrlac Lo, Faculty, Education & Counseling

This workshop on banned picture books begins with an overview of book censorship and the detrimental effects on students and marginalized populations. Then, in small groups, we review challenged stories, focusing on those about race, racism, and LGBTQ+ experiences, which account for nearly two-thirds of banned and censored books (PEN America). This guided critical analysis is an opportunity to revisit the wonder of being transformed by literature and celebrate the joy of children’s books. We end with a call to action, providing time for participants to write to local representatives urging them to protect vulnerable populations from this targeted discrimination.


"Living Historiography”: Embodying Black Women’s Stories and Peeking Behind the Scenes

Valerie Joyce, Faculty, Theatre; Kimberly S. Fairbanks, actor 

This presentation explores "Living Historiography" as a tool to subvert the traumatic narrative that has become the singular representation of pre-Emancipation Black women in the US. 

Harriet Jacobs’ and Ellen Craft’s narratives provide a great deal of information about the cruel realities of enslavement and the hard road to emancipation, but the main point of publishing these experiences was to highlight the horrors of slavery rather than the individual experiences of these women. We know these women as historical figures, but not as people. By breathing life into these women in performance, “Living Historiography” works to dismantle the biases that exist in the editorialized versions of their narratives. This method works to restore agency, power, and life to Black women whose names remain on the pages of history, but whose stories were not recorded.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights 75th Anniversary. Are they Universal? What is the Latin American contribution?

John Lydon, OSA, Mission and Ministry

During 2024 we are marking the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This session will focus on its development, especially the contribution of Latin American nations. We will also discuss why these rights are considered universal and inter-connected as well as why they are considered independent of the laws or practices of nation states.


Enough, For All, Forever: Justice is Necessary for Sustainability

Allie McAllister, Office for Sustainability; Simon Brooks, Graduate Student, Sustainable Engineering

What does justice have to do with sustainability? We often hear about climate disasters and environmental hazards, but how many of us experience the consequences firsthand? Whose backyard will suffer these effects the most? Furthermore, how do we connect to the impacts of environmental issues worldwide? This will be a facilitated discussion exploring the topics of environmental justice and sustainability in the context of the U.S and developing countries. Injustice is the failure to bother to care. Justice is necessary for sustainability. We must mend a society where there is Enough, For All, Forever.


Activism and Professional Identity:  What the Activism of Black Hair Professionals Means for You

Holly Slay Ferraro, Faculty, Management

This session aims to share the trailblazing activist work of Black hair care professionals. Through their stories, we uncover previously untold accounts of their active engagement in the Civil Rights movement and their regular involvement in Freedom Schools (Gill, 2010). These experiences also underscore how entrepreneurship served as a form of protection for these activists against threats to their livelihoods. In the session, I will encourage participants to explore the many faces of professional activism and how they might enact it in their lives and careers.  


Race Justice, and Dialogue: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching at Villanova

Ariana Ramos, Office of Residence Life/Education & Counseling; Rachel Skrlac Lo, Faculty, Education & Counseling

In this interactive session on Villanova's Race, Justice and Dialogue Course (RJDC), participants will engage in a critical conversation about antiracist teaching in order to collectively reflect on this antiracist initiative. We first provide background on the course and why it was created. We then share findings from a multi-year study on student experiences in pilot versions of the course. Attendees will engage in guided conversation on the successes and areas for growth for the RJDC. By engaging in this collective discussion, attendees will learn about the RJDC as well as contribute to antiracist teaching initiatives at Villanova.


Integral Disarmament and Anti-Nuclear Activism

Jacques Linder, Graduate Student, Theology and Religious Studies

Pope Francis and the Vatican have embraced a position of “integral disarmament” that not only requires disarmament from nuclear holding nations, but also the promotion of the common good, human rights, and a global ethic of solidarity. How do we realize such a vision? Are there limitations to such an approach? This session explores the anti-nuclear calls of the Vatican and investigates some faith-based and secular groups, such as Pax Christi USA, Plowshares, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), who have been performing activism and organizing at different levels of society to create a world without nuclear weapons. 


Fighting an Enduring Form of Slavery: The Alliance to End Human Trafficking

Joe Evans, Graduate Student, Theology and Religious Studies

This presentation will offer highlights from the 2023 annual conference of the Alliance to End Human Trafficking, formerly known as the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking. Villanova is an institutional partner with the Alliance. I will first discuss the seven trafficking paradigms and the importance of an approach that is centered on human rights and human dignity. Subsequently, I will emphasize the importance of collaboration in anti-human trafficking efforts and then briefly describe Villanova’s participation in this organization and opportunities for others to become engaged and contribute.



Collection Development Centered on Civil Rights

Beaudry Allen, University Archives

The session will showcase newly acquired material from Distinctive Collections focusing on civil rights and the Black Freedom Movement of the 20th Century. Through the material, and lens of preservation work, the session will dive into the importance of building out diverse archival collections and efforts into promoting material from underrepresented communities around Villanova and Philadelphia area.


How to Dialogue Through Polarizing Topics

Staff of the Center for Dialogue: Sherry Bowen, Celina Alexandra, Alexandra Delboy Zenteno, Cassidy Trim, Isa Iboko

In the current climate, many people report avoiding conversations about matters that can become contentious, such as justice, identity, or politics. We seem to fear judgment by others, being “canceled,” or starting family arguments. However, these conversations can also be an opportunity for learning about various views and connecting with others. In this panel, staff and facilitators from Villanova’s Center for Dialogue will respond to questions from the moderator and the audience on how they use dialogic tools to engage in difficult conversations.


Teaching Genocide from the Inside Out: Lessons from SCI Phoenix 

Tim Horner, ACS and Center for Peace and Justice Education

Since 2016, I've taught Nature of Genocide three times within the walls of SCI Phoenix, a maximum-security state penitentiary. This session will explore the dynamics of teaching a course on genocide to incarcerated students. There have been several moments over the years that have deeply affected the way I teach and think about violence and GENOCIDE.  I will explore some of those moments and the larger endeavor of how higher education functions within the prison environment.


The Center often records their events, making them accessible to the wider community. You can watch them on YouTube.

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The Center for Peace and Justice Education is closely integrated with the Office for Mission and Ministry and its departments, programs and initiatives.