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Freedom School

campus banner hanging from lamp post and depicting MLK

On Thursday, Feb 4, 2021, Villanova hosted its annual Freedom School, celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year's Freedom School was entirely online.  Please press the green link for the recorded sessions and the links below to view the entire schedule.

2/4/21 Freedom School Schedule and Session Descriptions


"Is the Privilege Walk Harmful or Hurtful?"

Emma Stein, Undergraduate Student; Krista Malott, Associate Professor, and Miranda Febus, Graduate Student, Department of Education and Counseling

Remember that time you got in a line and had to step forward or backward based on a privilege you did or did not have (e.g., participated in the Privilege Walk)? Many of us do, and while some of us found the activity to be life-changing, others found it to be harmful and exploitative. Come hear about a study that assessed the questions: what learning comes from the activity and who does it benefit? This facilitated conversation will be an opportunity to delve into personal experiences with the activity and the broader impacts.

"Environmental Justice at Villanova: Local and Global Action"

Jean Lutes, Faculty, English; Peleg Kremer, Assistant Professor, Geography and the Environment; Ruth McDermott Levy, Director of the Center for Global and Public Health and Associate Professor, Nursing; Stacy Andes, Director of Health Promotion and Health & Wellness Committee Chair for Villanova’s Sustainability Leadership Council; William Lorenz, Director of Sustainable Engineering

This action-oriented session will feature panelists from across the university who work toward environmental justice, an ideal that emerged from a movement started decades ago, mostly by people of color who sought to address the inequity of environmental protections in their home communities. Speakers include Peleg Kremer, who specializes in urban sustainability, Ruth McDermott Levy, Stacy Andes, and William Lorenz.

"Reading Group: 'How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective,' Edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor"

Komal Vaidya, Faculty, Law

Participants in this session will discuss the organizing principles of the Combahee River Collective as put forth through their statement and member interviews. Intersectionality and identity politics are important, yet, heavily misunderstood frameworks in political theory and organizing. This session will explore the origins of such theories as experienced through a collective of Black feminists organizing to address racism, heterosexism, and oppression under capitalism. Advanced reading is welcomed but not required.

"Faithfully Nonviolent: Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish Voices in the American Civil Rights Movement"

Julia Sheetz-Willard, Staff, Campus Ministry

While MLK Jr. and many of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement were committed Christians, the practice of nonviolent action has deep roots in other religious traditions as well. This interactive presentation will explore the mutually influential relationships of King, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Thich Nhat Hanh - and how they have shaped the legacy of interfaith activism today.

"Trusted News in a Hostile World: African American Newspapers and Magazines"

Jutta Seibert, Staff, Falvey Memorial Library

Newspapers and magazines reflect the zeitgeist of a period as few other primary sources do and digital archives make it easy to gain access to news dating as far back as the 17th century. Heated arguments over fake or biased news are as old as the news industry and the current proliferation of news outlets has further balkanized the information landscape. Nevertheless, news catering to distinct communities are an important communication platform. This interactive workshop will introduce a range of African American newspapers and magazines. Participants will have opportunity to explore news coverage of important events in African American history.

"Get Woke Nova Allyship Workshop"

Undergraduate Student Members of Get Woke Nova

Get Woke Nova is an undergraduate-led campaign aimed at encouraging dialogue about discrimination and injustice on campus. In this dialogue-based workshop, we will be sharing the stories of Villanova community members and delving into how intersecting identities affect one's experience within higher education. Gain a more cohesive understanding of allyship as we brainstorm tangible strategies for allyship within Villanova's campus.

"Peacebuilding as a way of Being: Thich Nhat Hanh and the Mindful Movement Within"

Allison Warner, Graduate Student, Psychological and Brain Sciences

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nominated Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, describing him as an "apostle of peace and nonviolence." Though his advocacy for the end to the hostilities of the Vietnam War led to a 39-year exile from his homeland, the Venerable Nhat Hanh never stopped teaching about mindfulness and 'being peace.' This session will reflect on Thich Nhat Hanh's legacy of peacebuilding and its lessons for social justice work today. Participants will also engage in discussion to identify peacebuilding skills relevant to their own lives and brief mindfulness practice.

"The Misremembering of American History: The Story of America’s Moral Decay"

Danielle Burns, Graduate Student, Political Science; Simon Brooks, Undergraduate Student

James Baldwin spoke of the creation of moral monsters throughout white communities in America as he discussed their apathetic reactions to racial injustice. American institutions lead us to believe that our society has evolved since the eras of slavery and Jim Crow; however, that progress has been extremely one-sided. Racism has transformed over time to preserve itself in the American mindset. We will take a look at the misremembering of American history in education and the disillusion of American morality. By analyzing Supreme Court rulings, polls, and interviews, we discuss how miseducation has contributed to America’s growing moral decay.

"PWLies: Performing Narratives about Life at a Primarily White Institution"

Evan Schares, Faculty, Communication; Student Performers: Lauren Amoo, Lauryn Hayes, Ryan Henry, Kourtney McCoy, Jaylene Joseph, Rachel Rhee, Faith Robinson, and Megan Wang

The NOVA Performance Ensemble - a group of six undergraduate students - bring their voices together to present their experiences about life at a Primarily White Institution. Narrative, poetry, storytelling, and letter writing address pain, joy, and what still needs to be done.

"Intergroup Dialogue Processes @BlackVillanova"

Sheryl Bowen, Faculty, ODEI/ IGR/Communication; Celina Alexander,  Alexandra Delboy Zenteno, Alex Iannucci, Terry Nance, Ariella Robbins

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students and staff voiced troubling stories from their experiences during the Summer of 2020 through Black@ Instagram accounts. The ODEI and IGR Graduate Assistant content analyzed more than 150 posts from @BlackVillanova. Using several of the key themes that were discovered, facilitators will present excerpts and, using IGRs community guidelines, initiate dialogue among session attendees to help increase understanding. This is an active participation session! Through COM 5300, IGR dialogues on topics such as race, gender, and class have been run every semester since 2011.

"Trauma-Informed Values and Movement Organizing"

Frances Kreimer, Faculty, Law School; Deeya Haldar, Law School

This interactive workshop will focus on the evolving field of trauma-informed services and its relationship to movement organizing. We will begin the workshop by exploring trauma, trauma-informed practice, and social movements, and discuss what each looks like in our different fields. We will explore how the trauma-informed values of empowerment, choice, agency, and solidarity could help us frame collective organizing and social movements as trauma-informed modalities, and what it would look like to intentionally incorporate a trauma-informed framework into movement work.

"Active Nonviolence 101 Training"

Michelle Sherman, Staff, Campus Ministry; Gary Zeron, Graduate Student/Alumni and Kathryn Getek Soltis, Director of Center for Peace and Justice Education

This workshop will be an introduction to active nonviolence as a creative “soul force,” strategy, spirituality, and way of life. We will share practical tools to use in personal relationships, communities, and work for justice and reconciliation. This session will introduce participants to the basics of active nonviolence based on the teachings of King, Gandhi, John Dear, and Veronica Pelicaric.

"The Imperative to Examine Health Disparities Data Through the Lens of Historical Context"

Elizabeth Petit de Mange, Faculty, Fitzpatrick College of Nursing; Guy M. Weissinger, II PhD, MPhil, RN Assistant Professor Fitzpatrick College of Nursing; Catherine Kim, Undergraduate Student

The COVID 19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted minority populations in the United States, most notably African Americans and Native Americans, with unfathomable rates of infection and deaths. These disparities have exposed the implicit and explicit biases that have existed for years in US health care delivery systems, education, and policies. In this presentation we will discuss the imperative to explore health outcomes and disparities data through the lens of historical context. Using COVID-19 as a case study, we will demonstrate how racism, social structures, and the healthcare system (providers and policies) have contributed to the perpetuation of health disparities.

"Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence’ - as Relevant Today as Ever"

Paul Sheldon, Faculty, Department of 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?

"What Does Antiracism Look Like in Your Classroom? A Conversation"

Emma Stein, Madison Becker, Madeline Ochabillo, Joanna Timmerman, Katherine Precourt, Kayleigh Giles, Undergraduate and Graduate Students in the Department of Education and Counseling; Rachel Skrlac Lo, Faculty, Education and Counseling; Christa Bialka, Associate Professor in the Department of Education and Counseling

This facilitated conversation is an opportunity for students and faculty to share their experiences of and aspirations for antiracist teaching. During this session, we will briefly introduce antiracist work and elements of antiracist teaching. Then, participants will be given a series of reflective questions to guide a conversation around antiracist teaching. Depending on the number of attendees, we will use breakout rooms to ensure attendees have opportunities to respond. Participants will leave with a working definition of antiracist teaching practices and be able to identify them in their own classrooms.

"Redistributing Equality: Centering Socialism in the Long(er) Black Freedom Struggle"

William Horne, Faculty, ACS

Although white America treats socialism as a neologism, Black activists have long articulated an antiracist and anticapitalist vision of equality. To emphasize this legacy of Black socialism, I examine the Black radical movement of the 1860s alongside two seminal texts produced in the late 1960s: the Ten Point Program of the Black Panther Party (1966) and “The Other America” speech (1968) given by Martin Luther King in the weeks before his murder. Together, they show how Black thinkers always tied equity to equality and how, on their own, diversity and inclusion will never bring liberation.

"What an Ally Looks Like: The Life and Legacy of Allyship of Stan Lee"

Brian Sirak, Staff, UNIT - Multimedia Technologies

You may be familiar with Spider-Man, Captain America and the Black Panther from your childhood or the blockbuster films of the MCU. You may have even heard the name Stan Lee but do you know the story behind the architect of the Marvel Universe and bard of the 20th century? With the recent passing of Stanley Martin Leiber, known to the world as Stan Lee, discussions about his life and impact across the globe were everywhere. One aspect that spoke to me was his long history of involvement with the Civil Rights Movement and how far his creations had carried his messages of caring for your fellow man and treating others with kindness and dignity. I will take a look at his career long history of advocacy and use of his position to give a voice to the voiceless. His example of true allyship precedes the terminology by decades but can still be a guide for folks with platforms and influence on how giving people a voice is one of the most consequential acts in terms of impact. Stan's global impact is still felt today and he and his creations are cited by leaders from Rep. John Lewis to President Obama.

"Poetic Possibilities in Performing Difference"

Heidi Rose, Faculty, Communication; Sharese Salters, Alicia Utecht, Cheyenne Zaremba

A Zulu greeting, “Sawubona,” translates roughly to, “I see you” followed by, “I am here to be seen.” To see and be seen is a foundation of ethnography, and to perform ethnography takes the process further, positing that speaking the words of another creates a deeper experience of seeing and being seen. More than dialogue alone, performance itself creates powerful vulnerability between the performer and the person being embodied, and between the performer and audience. In this session, graduate students from COM 8101 Performance Studies will perform original pieces that interrogate elements of identity, and that demonstrate some of the performance ethnographer’s process of discovery: openness to surprise, error, the unexpected, and poetic possibility. Facilitated discussion will follow the performances.