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.  

2023 Freedom School will be held Thursday, January 26, 2023.



The 2023 Freedom School is on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023 in the Connelly Center.  There are four sessions per time-slot in the following rooms: DEVON, ST. DAVIDS, CINEMA, and HAVERFORD.

"'Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence'—as Relevant Today as Ever"

Paul Sheldon Retired Faculty, Psychological and Brain Sciences


King’s 1967 speech at Riverside Church, 'Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,' challenges us through his linkage of “the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.” Delivered exactly one year before his death, this speech is as timely today as it was then. As we consider what he said at Riverside, it may help us understand why at the time of his assassination King was the most hated man in America. Have we white-washed the real King in our public praise of him?

“Nurturing Social and Economic Justice on Campus: Affordable Materials Project” 

Linda Hauck, Staff, Falvey Memorial Library and Amy Spare, Associate Director for Law Library Services & Legal Research Instructor


In this workshop we’ll explore how the high cost of textbooks and course materials impacts the academic climate and undercuts social and economic justice on campus.  We’ll introduce Affordable Materials Project and Villanova faculty initiatives to alleviate the challenges students face to access course materials and survey solutions being tried in the wider world.

“Whose Liturgy is it, Anyway? Christian Liturgy as the Work of and for the People” 

Naomi Washington Leapheart, Faculty, Theology & Religious Studies and Peace & Justice


Familiar and traditional liturgy in Christian worship can be a source of comfort. But liturgies left unexamined can do harm. In this session, we'll explore various liturgical forms and ask - whose liturgy is this and what "work" is this liturgy doing? We'll even craft some liturgy ourselves. Let's liberate liturgy and put it back into the hands of the people.

“Necessary Utopias: Anticolonialism and Human Survival” 

William Horne, Faculty, ACS, History, and Peace and Justice


Why would we accept dystopias—futures of unmitigated human suffering—as “realistic” while denouncing the prerequisites for human survival as mere fantasy? While the question might seem at first glance to exaggerate our failures to address the interrelated crises of inequality, white supremacy, and ecological collapse, it is undeniably the case that our public discourse reflects a set of deeply dystopian assumptions about the future. Such an approach is not only defeatist, but nonsensical. If we can accept the potential transformation of reality into a macabre horror of human torment and deprivation, we must likewise concede that its transformation into the transcendent, the egalitarian, and the sublime is no mere possibility but an urgent necessity.

In this session, I examine two moments of utopian revolt in the Black radical tradition situated against the functional dystopias of slavery and Jim Crow. The Black radicals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries show the potential of a militant and unapologetic utopianism as well as the urgency of understanding the dystopian systems created by the vampire class to drain the life out of everyone else. As we confront what may well be the last gasps of life in a habitable atmosphere, the utopian imperative is greater than ever: there is no other future—no alternate potential existence—than a utopian one.

"Having the Talk:  Learning How to Have Conversations That Matter

Sheryl Bowen, Faculty Director, Intergroup Dialogue Program; Terry Nance, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Alex Delboy Zenteno, Assistant Director, Intergroup Dialogue Program; Julie Sheetz, Campus Ministry; Naomi Washington Leapheart, Theology; Krista Malott, Education and Counseling; Brian McCabe, Campus Ministry; Leashia Lewis, Athletics; and Kevin Covington, CASA


There is an old saying, there can be no peace if there is no justice. It can also be said, there can be no real peace without conversation--authentic dialogue about the issues that matter. The 2022-23 school year at Villanova has seen points of disagreement in the community around the Blue Line flag at SPO, the Black Lives Matter flag in Connelly, the anti-Trans protestors on Ithan Avenue, the regulation of reproductive rights in the US, as some examples. Real community means finding a way through conflict and toward understanding. That process begins with conversation. Join facilitators from the Intergroup Dialogue Program as they outline the parameters of effective dialogue, discuss building such important skills as listening across difference, and asking questions before launching into argument. Participants will have the opportunity to practice these skills and engage in conversation about serious campus issues.

“Lessons/Experiences from Organizing on College Campuses” 

Cathy Nguyen, Student, Class of 2023 (Peace & Justice & Theology)


College campuses are prime spaces for community organizing, but each campus presents it own barriers and obstacles.  What are those at Villanova?  In this session, I will share reflections on my own experiences organizing on this campus, namely, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (an institutionally recognized campaign) as well as the Villanova Student Activist Convening (a student conceived idea/campaign) that occurred in March 2021. As each campaign existed differently in relation to the systems of Villanova, I will discuss the lessons that each provided as I encountered the social, political, and cultural landscapes of Villanova's campus in the work that myself and others did.

Campaigns, events, and initiatives take time. One of the difficulties of organizing in college is that as students, most of us only have 4 years, until we must move on. Without communication or discussion for proper transitions, the next generation coming in must learn the lessons we faced all over again and the cycle continues and ineffective work is done. Thus, I would also like for us together as a community to answer these questions, share our experiences, and look at what lessons and knowledge can be shared so that transformative mobilization can occur here at Villanova.

No previous organizing experience necessary to join in on the discussion, All are welcome! 

“Representation Matters: Black Female Writers in Philadelphia Classrooms & Beyond”

Adrianna Ogando, Student, Class of 2023 (English); Cynthia Choo, Student, Class of 2023 (English & Humanities)


Racist ideologies ingrained in our society and the lack of diversity in our school curricula have historically denied children of inclusive educational opportunities. The erasure of Black female writers or figures from our education is one particular consequence. In honor of Dr. King’s legacy, we aim to address these issues of inclusive, representative, and accessible education for Black students during our session. Our research focuses specifically on the writings and efforts of Alice Dunbar-Nelson, but also on the works of many other Black female writers, to formulate an effective learning environment. Through a series of projects and professional development sessions for a Philadelphia school district, our research works toward MLK’s vision by creating new, accessible resources that diversify school curricula. Our session will focus on the different efforts of this project, and also briefly share about our trip to Alabama for the annual Black History conference (ASALH) with the ‘Steenth Street Project.

“Why the Word SOCIALISM As Used in American Political Discourse Today no Longer has a Fearful Meaning” 

Joe Betz, Retired Faculty, Philosophy


During the Cold War, while the Soviet Union existed, the word socialism meant the economic system of an autocracy, a dictatorship, an oligarchy of commissars. Since then, because of the rise of democratic socialism in the Scandinavian countries and their Social Democratic parties, it has a different meaning. Bernie Sanders is the inheritor of this new meaning because the term no longer is linked with autocracy in the general understanding of Americans.

“Thich Nhat Hahn’s ‘I Have Lost My Brother’”

Carol Anthony, Faculty, Peace & Justice


Thich Nhat Hahn is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk whom Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 for his protest of the Vietnam war and his work for peace and non-violence.  Thich Nhat Hahn begins this short piece from his book, Love in Action, by asking a pine tree what the nature of institutional violence is and ends with a call to help find his brother.  This work is profound, provocative, and enigmatic and has much to teach us about the source of the violence that destroys us and how we may become agents of change, but only if we would truly listen.

“The Rooted Project: Uncovering Villanova's Black History”

Colin McCrossan, Graduate Student, History; Nolan Varee, Rooted Project Coordinator


The Rooted Project is Villanova's initiative to study its history and connections to slavery, segregation, racism, and gender and religious prejudice. This workshop will present two key findings from the project's research. The first is about William and Julia Moulden, a Black couple who are Villanova’s forgotten founders. The Mouldens worked for the Augustinians at Villanova from the 1840s-80s and donated land and money to the school, helping it survive during uncertain times. Until recently, however, the Mouldens were largely absent from any official University history. The second is that Villanova is located on a site of enslavement. In the 18th century, before Villanova was founded, the land that became the school was owned by a white Quaker family named the Morgans. The Morgans enslaved three Black people named Jack, Chloe, and George who changed the space that the Augustinians bought decades later. This workshop will introduce key sources from this research and prompt participants to think about how the Villanova community can acknowledge and remember this complex history.

“First Generation Strong: Supports and Tips for this Unique Population!”

Krista Malott, Faculty, Education and Counseling


Did you know that approximately one out of every 8 students at Villanova are first-generation college goers (e.g., they will be the first in their family to complete college)? Join us for this fun and interactive event whereby we will explore the unique challenges and strengths of our FG population. Drawing from actual student voices and experiences, this presentation will provide insights for both first gen and non-first gen students alike. Those who identify as faculty/administration/staff can gain insight and tips on ways to promote FG success in your professional roles.

“Protecting and Empowering Latinas in Cancer Alley, Louisiana”

Luz Escobar, Student, Class of 2024 (Peace and Justice) and, via Zoom, Indira Escobar, Journalism student at USC


There are more than a hundred thousand Latinas living in Cancer Alley, Louisiana. Cancer Alley is an eighty-five-mile stretch of chemical plants that expose communities to dangerous chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, ethylene oxide, and the most malignant, chloroprene. As a result, more than thousands of Louisianans have suffered health issues such as respiratory diseases, increased miscarriages, and the most prevalent, cancer.

This presentation focuses on our ideas for structuring a Latina youth movement in southern Louisiana through our organization the Corridor Latina Coalition. We explain history of marginalization in cancer alley, touching on the racial injustices and the prominent plantation culture in St. Charles Parish.

“Engage in Conflict Resolution to Find Solutions and Improve Wellness”

Meg Willoughby, University Ombudsperson (Staff)


Let the Ombuds demonstrate how to explore your concerns, identify your options, and strategize your plan for resolving them. Leave feeling empowered to address the conflicts that interfere with your work and life.

“Students Call for Divestment: Student Activism and their Records”

Beaudry Allen, Digital and Preservation Archivist, University Archives; Rebecca Oviedo, Distinctive Collections Archivist


Villanova University Archives will introduce the history of divestment activism in higher education and highlight archival material of past efforts by Villanova students. This session will also introduce participants to ProjectSTAND, an archival consortia created to provide access to collections emphasizing student activism in marginalized communities. 

“Who is on Villanova's Syllabi?”

Taleen Postian, Student, Class of 2024 (Political Science & Art History)


An examination and discussion of the lack of female and minority authors present across the syllabi of a sample of classes at Villanova University. This presentation aims to bring contemporary issues of representation of minority and female voices to our campus. The impact of this presentation lies in how these larger discussions of exclusion are made concrete and obvious when encapsulated in the case study of Villanova's core curriculum, transforming these arguments for representation from controversial abstract concepts to tangible ones where the numbers take precedence. In other words, this presentation makes the argument that Villanova should be making attempts to have the voices of those who author the University’s readings reflect and resemble the voices that echo through its halls.

"Don’t Sweep Past Injustices Under the Carpet – A call to Reparative Justice"

Irene Awino, Faculty, Communication


The person sitting next to you is unique yet connected to you through a network of global cultures. Isn’t our “global village” an equalizer? Well, it is not. While 21st century globalization offers many opportunities for socio-economic success for some, for others their experiences are shaped by painful and unjust pasts. Many groups around the world still battle generational pains, trauma and injustices that have negatively and disproportionately hindered their emancipation and as Martin Luther King Jr reminds us "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". Reparative justice addresses these generational harms with the aim of achieving an equitable future. Reparative justice exposes and confronts the unfortunate legacies of slavery, imperialism, and neoliberal capitalism, while offering points of action through difficult conversations – so that equity can reign in our midst. 



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

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Center for Peace and Justice Education
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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.