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Freedom School

campus banner hanging from lamp post and depicting MLK

Thursday, January 20 (VIRTUAL)

The annual Freedom School celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an opportunity for members of the Villanova community—staff, students, and faculty—to participate in lectures, panels and interactive sessions covering a range of social issues and topics including allyship, movement organizing, environmental justice, antiracism, health equity, peacebuilding and nonviolence, and animal welfare.

All 2022 sessions will be online, running a variety of hour-long sessions at 10AM, 11:30AM, 1PM and 2:30PM. The schedule of presentations is posted below.  Links for watching will be posted the morning of the event.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Protective and Compensatory Experiences (PACEs) 

Jillian Bussey (Counseling, undergraduate) and Amanda Tomaso (undergraduate)

Social and economic disparity leaves children with insufficient resources at higher risk for adverse experiences. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) contribute to catastrophic physical, mental, and financial outcomes for adults. Educators, counselors, health workers, and other "helping" professions can be a lifeline to Protective Experiences and minimize the effects of ACEs into adulthood, especially in systems that leave vulnerable populations behind. 

Freedom's Epistles: A Third Christian Testament?

Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart (Theology & Religious Studies, Peace & Justice)

Must the biblical canon be permanently sealed? Are there modern texts through which God is still speaking? Join this bold conversation about contemporary letters, written by Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous people of faith, that contain relevant and contextual Christian gospel messages of love, justice, and freedom.

From "Blueprint" to Action: Giving Voice to DEI and Marginalized Communities on Campus

Jim Trainer (Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Effectiveness) with colleagues from OSPIE and two members of the Aequitas Task Force: Joyce Russell (VSB) and Fr. Kevin DePrinzio (Mission and Ministry)

Over the years, the Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Effectiveness (OSPIE) has partnered with others across campus to advance the important work of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  In close partnership with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), OSPIE has worked to develop a deeper understanding of the lived experience of marginalized communities on campus. Rooted in Villanova's ideals of Veritas, Unitas, and Caritas, this work is central to the efforts of the Aequitas Task Force.  By employing an antiracist approach to critically assess the campus climate, we seek a just and equitable environment conducive to teaching and learning in and outside the classroom.  In this session we will discuss our various approaches to this important work and some recent findings, using data to build a more inclusive community on campus.

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

Paul Sheldon (Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, retired) 

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?

Dialoguing through Difficult Identity Issues: An Introduction to Intergroup Relations

Sherry Bowen (ODEI/IGR), Celina Alexander (ODEI/IGR), Alex Delboy (ODEI/IGR) and other IGR (faculty and staff) facilitators and (student) Messengers

You've seen it on Instagram--Take an IGR class! Do you know what IGR is? Want to hear more about this program that equips students to have difficult conversations? This interactive program will give you a taste of intergroup dialogue at Villanova. 

Fair Trade & Ethical Purchasing 

Cathy Nguyen (Peace & Justice, undergraduate) and Kate Giancatarino (Campus Ministry)

We will provide an introduction to the ethical and fair-trade practices in place at Villanova and then discuss what is lacking and what can be done to deepen our commitments to this work. 

What is Prison Gerrymandering and Why Does it Matter for Racial Equity? 

Brianna Remster (Sociology & Criminology) and Rory Kramer (Sociology & Criminology)

First, we provide a brief overview of how counting incarcerated people as residents of the districts where they are incarcerated distorts political representation, known as prison gerrymandering. To do so, we draw on findings from our analysis of prison gerrymandering in the Pennsylvania state legislature. By strengthening the political voices of Pennsylvanians who live near a prison while simultaneously weakening the voices of residents who live near high crime areas, this practice creates unequal representation, particularly for people of color and, indeed, entire communities of color. We then share preliminary findings from our ongoing project assessing the impact of prison gerrymandering nationwide using the new redistricting maps via the 2020 census. Taken together, we argue that prison gerrymandering directly subverts racial equality in our democracy. 

The Philly Roots of West African Independence Movement 

Chiji Akoma (GIS, English) 

We know that in 1961, the celebrated American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois relocated to the newly independent African nation of Ghana, on the invitation of Kwame Nkrumah, its first elected President. But do you know that decades before that encounter, Nkrumah had spent 10 years in Philadelphia, from 1935 to 1945? Did you know that Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first Black Governor-General of Nigeria, had also spent years in Philadelphia? What was it about Philadelphia that attracted these West Africans to the City in the 1920's and 1930’s? How did they end up leading their separate nations to wrest power from the colonizing British Crown?

Take Control of the Conflicts in your Classroom and Life 

Megan Willoughby (Office of the Provost) 

Villanova's Faculty Ombudsperson is a confidential consultant who assists in conflict resolution in an informal, impartial, and independent way. 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.

Prefigurative Politics and the Fight for Housing Justice 

Stephanie Sena (Peace & Justice, Law School) 

COVID-19 is exacerbating the homeless crisis in the US, and while homelessness increases, homeless shelter and transitional beds throughout the country are decreasing. This has led to a national rise in tent encampments, but cities often criminalize outdoor sleeping by forcibly removing people and their tents. In response to city threats to sweep, Philadelphia housing justice activists have engaged in the largest self-organized housing takeover in the country, making considerable gains for the homeless population. We will continue to take this fight to the courts, the press, and the streets until all our neighbors are housed. In this Freedom School session, I will explore best practices in Philadelphia, and detail how other cities can use the blueprint to make similar gains for housing justice.

Active Nonviolence Training 101

Will Stehl (Peace & Justice) and Kathryn Getek Soltis (Peace & Justice, Theology)

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, and others. 

The Humanitarian Crisis in Artsakh/Armenia and Exploring Global Conflicts  

Isabella Balian (Political Science/Peace & Justice, undergraduate student) and Isabel Hagobian (undergraduate)

The Armenian Genocide of 1915 is not always taught in US classrooms.  In fact, there is a current humanitarian crisis in Armenia, but Armenian causes do not get the attention and activism they deserve. I am an Armenian who has always advocated for the Armenian community. In my presentation, I will briefly describe Armenia, its history and current situation, and I will also provide resources and ways to get more involved. Armenian activism is often left out of the larger media, so this presentation will be a way for those in attendance to learn more about global conflicts and how they can take a role in fighting for justice. 

Thich Nhat Hahn's "I Have Lost My Brother"

Carol Anthony (Peace & Justice)

This is a presentation of Thich Nhat Hahn's short piece taken from his book, Love in Action. It is an ambiguous look at the different ways in which we do conceptual violence to "the other" and how we might see and hear the dignity and unique lessons from others as a form of non-violence.

Socialism: The True, Good Meaning Versus the False, Bad Meaning of the Term 

Joe Betz (Philosophy, retired) 

A socialistic government strives to guarantee its citizens their material human rights to jobs, education, food, housing, and health care. Because the U.S.S.R. attempted to do this with an autocratic political system, most Americans today confuse Stalinist Communism with true democratic socialism.

Native American Boarding Schools and Settler Colonialism 

Dana Lloyd (Global Interdisciplinary Studies) and Elisha Chi (Theology and Religious Studies, graduate student)

This session kicks off a series of events planned for Spring 2022 concerning recent news involving the Catholic Church and Canada’s First Nations. Hundreds of unmarked graves have been discovered around residential schools for First Nations children; the Catholic Bishops released an official apology for the Church’s role in the abuse and death of Native children; and Pope Francis has accepted an invitation to visit Canada. To be sure, this history is not particular to Canada: Canadian schools were modeled on Native American boarding schools in the US, and the first boarding school operated here in Pennsylvania. This session will focus on this phenomenon and the part it played in a larger settler colonial project. 

Active Nonviolence Training 101

Will Stehl (Peace & Justice) and Kathryn Getek Soltis (Peace & Justice, Theology)

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, and others. 

Antiracist Visions of the Required Course on Race & Justice  

Sherry Bowen (ODEI), Terry Nance (Vice President, ODEI), Hibba Abugideiri (History, URJC Pilot instructor) Rachel Skrlac Lo (Education & Counseling, URJC Faculty Associate) 

How can Villanova enact real change in the wake of recent calls for racial reckoning? The University Race and Justice Course (URJC) was initially conceptualized in 2020 and has been run as a pilot in the current academic year. We expect that by 2025 all Villanova students will take a course on Race and Justice through their college. How does this course embrace and integrate antiracist pedagogy? What is antiracist pedagogy? How can Intergroup Dialogue work to further the work of antiracism? What is being asked of professors? Of students? We hope to deliver an informative program to answer these questions and more.

Being White Seeing Black

Tim Horner (ACS and Peace & Justice)  

In the last few years, many Americans have become increasingly aware, some for the first time, of the different ways that White and Black folks are treated with the system of justice. In 2014, two separate grand juries acquitted two police officers for the killing of two unarmed Black men - Michael Brown and Eric Garner. And of course George Floyd’s extra-judicial murder (some say lynching) confronted us with a video example of a deep cultural fear of Black men that is still affecting many people.  This session will combine the neuroscience of threat with the subjective experience of being White. This session will also consider the brain as a predictive, rather than reactive, organ of perception. The implications of this paradigm shift are epochal within the science community, but we will focus how these deep cultural mechanisms continues to affect our too often unconscious perception of the ‘dangerous’ Black male.

Technologies of Liberation: Invading Carmichael's "White Intellectual Ghetto"

William Horne (ACS)

During his famous "Black Power" speech at UC Berkeley in 1966, Stokely Carmichael quipped that "it's a privilege and an honor to be in the white intellectual ghetto of the West." Carmichael indicted both the segregationist landscape of the American education system and the absurd white mythologies that it produced. His words apply easily, if uncomfortably, to today’s "anti-CRT" (Critical Race Theory) efforts to ban Black American thinkers and history from our classrooms and public spaces. This session examines Carmichael's critique of the "white intellectual ghetto" and the white mythologies that animate it. Carmichael's ideas point the way towards technologies of counter-violence in revolutionary knowledge and art that today's antiracist organizers use to challenge white supremacist thoughtways codified in our systems, institutions, and laws.