2020 Focus Session Details

If you are looking for information on the MLK for Kids track, please click here.

Flight Paths: Mapping Injustice
Allison Schuette ’93, MFA, associate professor of English

The Welcome Project at Valparaiso University has been working on an interactive documentary website, Flight Paths: Mapping Our Changing Neighborhoods, since 2015. Flight Paths centers on the changing racial and economic demographics of Gary and Northwest Indiana, from the rise of black political power in the 1960s, through the “flight” of white residents and businesses, to the automation and downsizing of local steel mills.

This presentation, “Mapping Injustice,” will introduce participants to the working prototype of the website, which begins with an opening animation that highlights changing population density by race/ethnicity in Gary and Northwest Indiana (1940–2010) and visibly demonstrates policies and practices, like redlining and blockbusting, that contributed to ongoing inequality and the lack of access to housing and education for African American residents. Participants will then receive an overview of how the website will work and will get to “visit” the neighborhood of Tolleston to see how the website incorporates both historical descriptions and oral histories to offer a dynamic narrative of the region. It will focus specifically on redlining and blockbusting in order to show how (mis)representation led to diminished access. The presentation will end with a Tolleston resident (short video) on the concept of resilience in the face of inequity.

Overcoming Bias Toward Women
Chyanne Holth & Emily Neuharth (Members of Athena Society)

Athena Society is a college affiliate of American Association of University Women (AAUW). AAUW conducted a study called Barriers and Bias, which explores the reasons behind women’s underrepresentation in leadership positions in politics, business, and other professions. During this presentation, AAUW will share the results of this study and talk about women leadership on college campuses and why equal representation of women in these positions is essential.

Ferguson The New Selma

Jesse Johnson

This content recalls excerpts from a speech by Martin Luther King Jr., in which he said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

This interpretation of this painting depicts the atrocities that plague our world in this demonstration of Ferguson The New Selma. It allows for this piece to speak for itself — a picture can tell a thousand words and yet ironically words paint a picture.

A Valpo for All
Roxanne Mendez Johnson, esq, chair of the Valparaiso Human Relations Council

The Advisory Human Relations Council (AHRC) was established by former Mayor Jon Costas in August 2008 for the purpose of “providing counsel and assistance to the Mayor” in order to determine the most effective ways to make all residents of Valparaiso feel welcome and believe they have an equal opportunity to participate fully in the community, through the strong leadership of the city and its officials, including city-sponsored opportunities for residents to engage in open, civil discussion of human relations. The role of the AHRC is primarily advisory, making recommendations to city officials designed to assist them in fulfilling their leadership role in making the city a place where people are not disadvantaged because of intentional discrimination or unconscious bias. Ms. Mendez Johnson has spent more than two decades practicing law with most of her time spent working as a Federal Public or Community Defender.

Blue Lives Matter and the Dangers of Anti-Allyship
Thespina Dabagia

In this presentation, the audience will engage in a conversation of how the police subculture creation of the Blue Lives Matter movement was made to counter the progression of race relations made by the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a direct example of anti-allyship that has created false narratives and hostility that was made with the purpose to discredit the importance of Black Lives Matter. The presenter will explore this example of anti-allyship and shed light on how problematic choosing Blue Lives over Black Lives is for a society that prides itself on progress and equality. The session will express the appropriate ways to be an ally by lifting up black narratives and the Black Lives Matter movement. This would also include that people in places of privilege should speak out against efforts for anti-allyship such as Blue Lives Matter.

A Changing Church: A History of St. John’s Lutheran Church
Joy Holland

During the summer of 2019, Joy Holland spent time at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Gary, Indiana, working under Flight Paths. The church was founded by German Lutheran Immigrants in the 1860s in Tolleston, Indiana, which was later annexed into Gary. During the period of White Flight, Karl Lutze of Valparaiso University, who was serving as interim pastor, went door to door canvassing for the church. When the church called Pastor Norman Brandt to be their resident pastor, Brandt joined with Lutze. Brandt was devoted not only to opening the doors of St. John’s, but to the larger Civil Rights Movement. For a time, the church grew as a mixed congregation but became a predominantly African American congregation.

John Robert Lewis: A Pillar of Excellence
Casey Hill

John Robert Lewis has been a congressman since 1986 in Georgia’s 5th congressional district. He has been called “America’s Conscience” and is regarded widely as a pillar of excellence at his post. Before he was a congressman, Rep. Lewis was the youngest “Big Six” leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963–1966. In 1960, Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, an integrated group that sought to change the bussing laws in old confederate states (which was successful after he spearheaded the second movement). In 1964, Lewis coordinated the “Freedom Summer,” a movement to get African American college students registered to vote. He also spearheaded the walk across the Selma to Montgomery Bridge on March 7, 1965, a day to be further known as “Bloody Sunday.” He’s been responsible for great things and only great things; he is a member of the community that should be recognized more.

Historical Theatre, Shanghai Jewish Refugees: The Singer of Shanghai
Kari-Anne Innes, Ph.D., lecturer, Kevin Ostoyich, Ph.D., professor of history, Rebecca Ostoyich, archivist, and students of “Historical Theatre: Shanghai Jewish Refugees”

Students and faculty in the course Historical Theatre: Shanghai Jewish Refugees will present a seven-minute pecha-kucha style presentation and performance featuring artifacts, words and music, and interviews with survivors of the WWII Holocaust, who largely survived because they sought refuge in Shanghai, China, the only country that would take them. Professor Kevin Ostoyich has compiled hours of interviews with former refugees sharing their experiences of the past and providing a cautionary tale and call to action for current generations facing issues of justice amidst war, racial and religious tensions, refugee crises, and authoritarianism to not repeat this history. From these interviews, students in Historical Theatre: Shanghai Jews create performance pieces that bring the stories of the refugees to life. Two previous sections of the course have written and performed the full-length scripts “Knocking on the Doors of History: The Shanghai Jews” and “Shanghai Carousel: No One Knows What Tomorrow Will Be.” In 2020, students will create a third production titled “The Singer of Shanghai” based on a refugee’s memories of his mother and her Singer Sewing machine during their time of refuge and after the war.