Panels + Workshops


Panel A – The Hidden Threat to Black Lives: Climate Change and Environmental Justice

Black communities are disproportionately affected by pollution and by the increasing risks of climate change caused weather disasters. Low income communities of color have historically shouldered a unfairly large share of environmental risks and burdens, which have negatively impacted their health, quality of life, and neighborhood stability. Conversely, environmental improvements and efforts to combat climate change create spillover benefits like green jobs, access to open space, protecting vulnerable homes, and health improvements like reduced asthma. Unfortunately, those most vulnerable to climate and environmental burdens are often those least able to capture the benefits. This panel will: (1) Define environmental justice and climate justice; (2) Identify policies, organizations, and citizen actions that will not only increase sustainability’s benefits, but also help ensure their equitable distribution.

Panel Managers: Shauna Theel (MPP), Noah Dubin (MPP), Jennifer Helfrich (MPP)




Panel B – Coming to America: Black Immigrants and Black Liberation in the United States and Abroad

This panel will focus on the intersection between immigrants from the African diaspora and black liberation movements in the United States. We will explore the sources of social divisions between black Americans who are descended from slaves and first- or second-generation immigrants to the United States. We will also examine the experiences of black immigrants in terms of the challenge of navigating dualities of identity as well as the intersection of anti-black racism and anti-immigrant xenophobia in the United States. Ultimately, our aim is to facilitate a conversation about how black immigrants and African Americans can better unite against anti-black racism in the United States and how African Americans can better engage with black liberation movements across the globe.

Panel Managers: Elorm Avakame (MD/MPP), Malcolm Temple (MPP)



Panel C – Designing Community: A Critical Look at Race, Privilege, and Collaboration

Modern ideas of American racism and whiteness were fabricated, during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. What are the implications of race and whiteness as historical phenomena today? Why do low-income white people support policies that run counter to their professed values and economic well-being, often to the detriment of low-income communities of color? And what are activists and communities doing to push back against the “slow-moving disasters” of racism and bigotry? This panel will explore the roles of whiteness, the myth of race and the race hierarchy, the idea of “allyship”, and the responsibility of “privilege” in a rapidly fracturing country.

Panel Managers: Benjamin Weinstein (MPP), Sherwyn Wilson (MPP)


Panel D – Chartering the Future: Charter Schools, Education Reform, and Black Communities

Many believe that the election and the appointment of Betsy Devos to the Department of Education prompted a new look into charter schools, school choice, and vouchers. Liberal education analysts have decided these policies spell disaster for the black community. But the debate has already raged and waned in the black community for decades. Could these policies actually help the black community? To what extent should we trust liberal education policy experts with the fate of our children? This panel will critically look at these policies and why they could be helpful to our community. Panelists will talk about the importance of creating schools that work, no matter how they are set up.

Panel Managers: Aria Miles (MPP) and Michael Huggins (MPP/UW Law JD)



Workshop: Why You Should Run for Office, and How to Do it!

During the 2016 election, dissatisfaction with both candidates unearthed a lack of choice in electoral politics. Since then, the final election results ignited heightened levels of civic engagement in opposition to Donald Trump. In response, many have inquired about the steps they can take to have an increased impact and create real change at the ballot box. And while there are many appropriate avenues to address this issue, too often young people do not consider putting themselves on the ballot. In an effort to remedy this phenomenon, this workshop will explore and dispel many of the reasons that keep people from running for office and then equip participants with the skills and insights necessary to successfully run for office.

Workshop Managers: Shaniqua McClendon (MPP), Farai Gundan (MC-MPA)


Workshop: Black and Muslim: Organizing at the Intersection

The panelists will each discuss their experiences organizing and potential for coalition building across the aforementioned communities, especially in the face of increasing marginalization facing both Muslim and Black communities across the U.S. They will address the following questions: (1) How has being a Muslim impacted your black identity and vice versa? (2) What opportunities for civil rights organizing and coalition building do you see at the intersection of the Black and Muslim communities?
(3) Given the rich history of Black Muslims in politics, entrepreneurship and media, how can social change advocates use innovation and visibility to create effective impact?And (4) What do you see for the future of Black Muslim organizing?

Workshop Manager: Rana Abdelhamid (MPP)



Workshop: Next Steps for Police Reform: Towards Racial and Criminal Justice

This year has highlighted the flaws in our criminal justice system and its disproportionate impacts on black communities and other people of color. In the face of inaction at the federal level, local organizing for police reform is all the more essential. Join us for a conversation and workshop with Brittany Packnett, Co-founder of Campaign Zero, a member of the President’s 21st Century Policing Task Force, and a leading activist in protests across the country. The session will begin with a discussion facilitated by Professor Robert Livingston, focusing on concrete policy solutions and how we can push for their implementation. We will then workshop ways to apply these lessons locally, asking, “What can we do in our communities to move towards racial and criminal justice?”

This session will be the culmination of a multi-part study-group, also featuring “Police Perspectives on Police Reform” and “What Cities Can do for Police Reform” that all are welcome to join.

Workshop Managers: Sophie Feintuch (MPP), Charles Skold (MPP), Shannon Thomas (MPP)



Plenary: When the Dream is Not Enough: How to Mobilize, Inspire, Act!

On Dec. 20, 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer passionately spoke at the Williams Institutional CME Church in Harlem, New York. She said we “always hear this long sob story: ‘You know it takes time.’ For three hundred years, we’ve given them time. And I’ve been tired so long, now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we want a change. We want a change in this society in America because, you see, we can no longer ignore the facts and getting our children to sing, ‘Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed.’ What do we have to hail here?” Fannie Lou Hamer’s words ring true today. It is time to wake up from the dream unfulfilled.

This plenary is designed to illustrate the importance and complexities of mobilization, inspiration, and action in a two-party system. We have an obligation and a responsibility to return to our communities, demand action from those in power, and encourage others to do the same. This plenary will give attendees the tools to confidently address problems in their own cities and towns.