From the 2016 Election to the political landscape around the country, recent national and international events have drawn attention to the issue of unity--or lack thereof--in this country. University Without Walls (UWW) is hoping a 3-day conference will generate and continue discussion around this division within the nation. The conference theme of “Participatory Democracy: Engaging Across Divides” reflects that expectation.
"We picked our theme because last year's election seemed to highlight for more people the divides in our nation,” said Michel Boucher, a UWW faculty member and co-organizer of the UWW Social Justice Residency. “Now, as much as ever, we recognize how important it is for people working for justice to be able to come together, listen to and understand each other's histories and struggles, and to fight together for the principles of democracy and justice.” Since its inception 5 years ago, the residency program has focused on current issues.
While the residency is geared towards UWW students, there are three, free public events. On Friday, September 15th at 6:30pm, the public is invited to attend a panel discussion “Just the Facts: The Role of Media in Democracy” moderated by Dr. Mari Castaneda from the UMass Amherst Department of Communication with a panel of experts in the communications field. Then on Saturday, September 16th, the public is invited to the keynote address by Louis Mitchell entitled “The Hub Must Hold: Building Covenants Across Differences in Social Justice Activism." The keynote address begins at 4:00pm. Then there will be a Film & Community Conversation at 7:00pm based on the PBS documentary ¡Palante Siempre Palante!: The Young Lords.
“We need people to be able to understand perspectives other than our own and those who are most like us. This often requires difficult discussions, powerful critical thinking skills, and lots of education on all sides.” Boucher added, “We are proud to be able to host this weekend in Springfield, a city with a
tremendous history of social and political activism that continues into the present moment.” This is the third year UWW has hosted the program at the UMass Center.