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April 25-26, 2019

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

"Vision and Justice" is a two-day creative convening (April 25–26, 2019) that will consider the role of the arts in understanding the nexus of art, race, and justice.

This public event, conceived by Sarah Lewis, assistant professor of history of art and architecture and African and African-American studies at Harvard University, grows out of the award-winning Vision & Justice issue of the photography journal Aperture (May 2016), which she guest edited. The convening is organized around the guiding questions: What is the role of the arts for justice? How have narratives created by culture—the arts, performances, and images—both limited and liberated our definition of national belonging? The event is hosted by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, with additional major funding from the Ford Foundation, and is cosponsored by the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, the Harvard Art Museums, and the American Repertory Theater, with additional support from the Lambent Foundation for the civic curriculum publication.

The convening takes its conceptual inspiration from Frederick Douglass’s landmark Civil War speech “Pictures and Progress,” about the transformative power of pictures to create a new vision for the nation. In this long understudied speech, Douglass described a vision of race, citizenship, and image making that he stated might take a century or more to be understood. This “Vision and Justice” convening will focus on both the historic roots and contemporary realities of visual literacy for justice in American civic life.

The program will emphasize short presentations with a goal of outlining and catalyzing ideas for future work in art and justice around the country and the world. The sessions will focus on a wide range of related topics, from “Race, Justice, and the Environment” to “Cultural Narratives and Media.” The program incorporates a range of dynamic speakers and events, including a performance by Carrie Mae Weems, a conversation about Central Park Five, the forthcoming miniseries by Ava DuVernay and Bradford Young with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and a performance by Wynton Marsalis. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who discovered the Flint, Michigan water crisis, will exchange ideas with Chelsea Clinton, and a video by LaToya Ruby Frazier, who used her camera to highlight the injustice on the ground, will be shown. The event culminates with the conferral of the inaugural Gordon Parks Foundation Essay Prize on Thursday, and a keynote by social justice activist Bryan Stevenson on Friday evening.

“Gordon Parks: Selections from the Dean Collection” opens at the Hutchins Center’s Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art in tandem with the convening, with a public reception on April 26, and runs through July 19, 2019.

This public-facing event will convene a large group of prominent activists, academics, artists, and public servants. The event will be livestreamed and recorded for later online posting as part of the Radcliffe Institute’s commitment to bringing its programming to audiences around the world.

Registration is free and opens on April 10 for the Harvard community and April 11 for the public.



David Adjaye, architect and principal, Adjaye Associates

Elizabeth Alexander, poet, educator, memoirist, scholar, and arts activist; chancellor, Academy of American Poets; president, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

Lawrence Bacow, president, Harvard University

Melody C. Barnes, distinguished fellow at the School of Law, Compton Visiting Professor in World Politics and senior fellow at the Miller Center, and codirector for policy and public affairs for the Democracy Initiative, University of Virginia

Alexandra Bell, multidisciplinary artist

Maurice Berger, research professor and chief curator, Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Robin Bernstein, Dillon Professor of American History and professor of African and African American studies and of studies of women, gender, & sexuality, Harvard University

Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography, Harvard Art Museums, and lecturer on history of art and architecture, Harvard University 

Lawrence D. Bobo, dean of social sciences, Harvard College Professor, and W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University

Vincent Brown, Charles Warren Professor of History and professor of African and African American studies, Harvard University

Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

Joy Buolamwini, founder, Algorithmic Justice League

Chelsea Clinton, vice chair, Clinton Foundation

Jelani Cobb, Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia University; staff writer, New Yorker

Teju Cole, photography critic, New York Times Magazine; Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing, Harvard University

Kasseem Dean (Swizz Beatz), record producer, rapper, and DJ

Kimberly Drew, writer, curator, and activist

Ava DuVernay, writer, director, producer, and film distributor

Michael Famighetti, editor, Aperture magazine

Drew Gilpin Faust, president emeritus, Harvard University

Cheryl Finley, associate professor of art history, Cornell University

Nicole R. Fleetwood, associate professor of American studies and graduate faculty in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

LaToya Ruby Frazier, photographer; video artist; and associate professor of photography, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Alan M. Garber, provost, Harvard University; Mallinckrodt Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; professor of economics, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; professor of public policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University

Theaster Gates, founder and executive director, Rebuild Foundation; inaugural distinguished artist in residence and director of artist initiatives, Lunder Institute for American Art; professor, Department of Visual Arts, the University of Chicago

Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate

Agnes Gund, philanthropist and art collector; founder, Art for Justice Fund; president emerita, Museum of Modern Art

Catherine Gund, producer, director, writer, and activist; founder and director, Aubin Pictures

Mona Hanna-Attisha, assistant professor of pediatrics and human development and founder and director of the Michigan State University–Hurley Children's Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, Michigan State University

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Elizabeth Hinton, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department History and the Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

Sadie Rain Hope-Gund, photographer and writer

Robin Kelsey, dean of arts and humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography, Harvard University

Peter W. Kunhardt Jr., executive director, The Gordon Parks Foundation

Franklin Leonard, film executive; founder, the Black List

Sarah Lewis, assistant professor of history of art and architecture and African and African-American studies, Harvard University

Wynton Marsalis, musician, composer, and bandleader; managing and artistic director, Jazz at Lincoln Center

Mohsen Mostafavi, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, Harvard University

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University

Leigh Raiford, associate professor and H. Michael and Jeanne Williams Chair of African American Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Claudia Rankine, poet; chancellor, Academy of American Poets; Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry, Yale University

Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Anna Deavere Smith, actress, playwright, and author; university professor, New York University

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director, Equal Justice Initiative; professor of clinical law, New York University

Latanya Sweeney, professor of government and technology in residence, Department of Government, Harvard University

Martha Tedeschi, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director, Harvard Art Museums

Hank Willis Thomas, conceptual artist

Naomi Wadler, activist

Darren Walker, president, Ford Foundation

Carrie Mae Weems, artist

Deborah Willis, university professor and chair of the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts and director of the Institute of African American Affairs, New York University

Damian Woetzel, president, the Juilliard School

Bradford Young, cinematographer