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Events & exhibitions
event • Conferences & Symposia

Vision & Justice

  • Thursday, April 25, 2019 through
    Saturday, April 27, 2019
A full audience in the Knafel Center on the first day of "Vision and Justice."
Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, kicks off the first day of "Vision & Justice." Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

“Vision & Justice” is a two-day creative convening that will consider the role of the arts in understanding the nexus of art, race, and justice.

This public event, conceived by Sarah Lewis, an assistant professor of history of art and architecture and of 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 three guiding questions: How is the foundational right of representation in a democracy—the right to be recognized justly—tied to the work of images in the public realm? 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 in this digital age?

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 & Justice” convening will focus on both the historic roots and contemporary realities of visual literacy for justice in American—and particularly African American—civic life.

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.

#visionandjustice

  • Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University
  • Lori Gross, associate provost for arts and culture, Harvard 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
  • Robin Kelsey, dean of arts and humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography, Harvard University
  • Carrie Lambert-Beatty, professor of visual and environmental studies and of history of art and architecture in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and director of graduate studies in film and visual studies in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University
  • Sarah Lewis, assistant professor of history of art and architecture and African and African-American studies, Harvard University
  • Yukio Lippit, professor of history of art and architecture, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, and Harvard College Professor, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Jennifer L. Roberts, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute and Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University
  • Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Damian Woetzel, president, the Juilliard School

The program will emphasize short presentations with the 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 variety 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 Henry Louis Gates Jr.; and a performance by Wynton Marsalis. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who discovered the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, will exchange ideas with Chelsea Clinton, and LaToya Ruby Frazier, who used her camera to highlight the injustice on the ground, will show one of her videos. The event culminates on Thursday with the conferral of the inaugural Gordon Parks Foundation Essay Prize and a keynote by the 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. A public reception takes place on April 26, and the exhibition 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 streamed live and recorded for later posting online as part of the Radcliffe Institute’s commitment to bringing its programming to audiences around the world.

Read Vision & Justice: A Civic Curriculum.

  • 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 S. 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
  • 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
  • Vijay Iyer, composer and pianist; Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in the Department of Music and Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
  • 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
  • Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theater and professor of the practice of theatre in the Department of English, Harvard University
  • Leigh Raiford, associate professor and H. Michael and Jeanne Williams Chair of African American Studies, University of California, Berkeley
  • Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • 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

Event Videos

Watch more clips from "Vision & Justice" on YouTube.

A full audience in the Knafel Center on the first day of

Thursday | Part I


OPENING PROGRAM: Knafel Center, Radcliffe Institute


WELCOME REMARKS

Tomiko Brown-Nagin


INTRODUCTION

Sarah Lewis

Video by Lance Oppenheim

Video of Amanda Gorman Performance


GORDON PARKS FOUNDATION ESSAY PRIZE OVERVIEW

Robin Kelsey


REMARKS ABOUT THE GORDON PARKS FOUNDATION

Peter Kunhardt Jr.


GORDON PARKS FOUNDATION ESSAY PRIZE PRESENTATIONS

Robin Kelsey, Martha Tedeschi, and Kasseem Dean (Swizz Beatz)


CITIZENSHIP AND RACIAL NARRATIVES

Alexandra Bell, Jelani Cobb, Nicole Fleetwood, and Makeda Best


TRIBUTES

Khalil Gibran Muhammad Tribute to Jamel Shabazz

Leigh Raiford Tribute to Dawoud Bey

Carrie Mae Weems stands on stage.

Thursday | Part II


WELCOME

Sarah Lewis


READINGS AND INTRODUCTIONS

Elsa Hardy and Liat Rubin


ORIGINALITY AND INVENTION

Carrie Mae Weems, David Adjaye, and Sarah Lewis


PERFORMANCE

Carrie Mae Weems, Vijay Iyer, Kee-Hyun Kim


CONCLUDING REMARKS

Dean Lawrence D. Bobo

A jazz quartet performs on stage.

Friday | Part I


MORNING SESSION

Sanders Theatre


WELCOME REMARKS

Alan M. Garber, Darren Walker, and Sarah Lewis

Video by Lance Oppenheim


MUSICAL OPENING

Wynton Marsalis, Dan Nimmer, Taurien (TJ) Reddick, and Phillip Norris


CULTURAL CITIZENSHIP

Wynton Marsalis, Diane Paulus, and President Emerita Drew Gilpin Faust


RACE, CULTURE, AND CIVIC SPACE

Introduction: Mohsen Mostafavi

David Adjaye, Theaster Gates, and Sarah Lewis

Tribute to LaToya Ruby Frazier by Teju Cole

Video by LaToya Ruby Frazier


RACE, JUSTICE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Introduction: Sarah Lewis

Chelsea Clinton and Mona Hanna-Attisha


RACE, CHILDHOOD, AND INEQUALITY IN THE POLITICAL REALM

Introduction: Claudine Gay

Robin Bernstein, Yara Shahidi, and Naomi Wadler

Bryan Stevenson seated, speaking into microphone held in one hand, and raising other hand up with fingers spread apart.

Friday | Part II


AFTERNOON SESSION: Sanders Theatre

Sarah Lewis

Hank Willis Thomas Interviewed by Cheryl Finley


TURNAROUND ARTS (WHITE HOUSE PROGRAM)

Introduction: Kimberly Drew

Damian Woetzel and Melody Barnes

Thank You: Inaara Shiraz


PERFORMANCE

Introduction: Sarah Lewis

Joy Buolamwini


RACE, TECHNOLOGY, AND ALGORITHMIC BIAS

Joy Buolamwini, Latanya Sweeney, and Darren Walker


MASS INCARCERATION AND VISUAL NARRATIVES

Introduction: Tommie Shelby


Bryan Stevenson, Elizabeth Hinton, and Danielle Allen


CONCLUDING REMARKS

Vincent Brown

Carrie Mae Weems, Sarah Lewis, and David Adjaye sit in chairs on stage, smiling and laughing.

Originality and Invention


Carrie Mae Weems, artist


David Adjaye, architect and principal, Adjaye Associates


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

Theaster Gates, David Adjaye, and Sarah Lewis sit on stage in conversation.

Race, Culture, and Civic Space


David Adjaye, architect and principal, Adjaye Associates


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


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



Joy Buolamwini speaks on a stage, under a screen that reads,

Joy Buolamwini, “AI, Ain’t I a Woman?”


Joy Buolamwini, founder, Algorithmic Justice League; research assistant, MIT Media Lab

Darren Walker, Joy Buolamwini, and Latanya Sweeney sit on a stage in conversation.

Race, Technology, and Algorithmic Bias


Joy Buolamwini, founder, Algorithmic Justice League; research assistant, MIT Media Lab


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


Darren Walker, president, Ford Foundation

Yara Shahidi and Robin Bernstein sit on a stage. Shahidi is speaking while Bernstein listens.

Race, Childhood, and Inequality in the Political Realm


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


Yara Shahidi, actor, Black-ish and Grown-ish; activist; founder, Eighteen x 18


Naomi Wadler, activist


Introduced by 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

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