50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act Inspires Allegheny College’s Programming for 2014-15

Sept. 2, 2014 — Many of the events planned at Allegheny College in 2014-15 — in the academic year of the college’s bicentennial in 2015 — celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2015 of the Voting Rights Act.

Keynote speakers for the Year of Voting Rights and Democratic Participation at the college include Lani Guinier, the first woman to be appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School, at 7 p.m. on November 14 and civil rights activist and Algebra Project founder Robert Moses at 7 p.m. on March 30. Both presentations will be in the college’s Ford Chapel.

Another centerpiece of the year’s programming will be an undergraduate conference on the theme on April 10-11. Keynote conference presentations by five renowned scholars and activists — John Aldrich, Anne Boxberger-Flaherty, Joy James, Gabriel Sanchez and Carol Geary Schneider — will be open to the public.

In addition, students enrolled in the one-credit course “Voting Rights and Democratic Participation” will explore issues surrounding the theme by attending lectures and events together to stimulate discussion of the issues.

Events also include a theater production related to the theme. Playshop Theatre will present four performances of “Clybourne Park,” a play by Bruce Norris that takes its inspiration from Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” February 26-March 1.

Events scheduled early in the fall semester include a Constitution Day lecture on September 17 by Tova Wang, an expert on election reform and political participation, and a talk on September 22 by former Missouri state senator Jeff Smith, whose youth-powered grassroots congressional campaign was the subject of the documentary “Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?”

Four events on September 29 will focus on war and its aftermath. Beth McCoy, Distinguished Teaching Professor at SUNY Geneseo, will present a talk on “Gulf Wars and Warriors at the Post Katrina Crossroads.” Brian Castner, who commanded two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in Iraq, will read from his book “The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows.” His presentation is also part of the college’s Single Voice Reading Series.

Also on September 29 will be a performance by EXIT12, a contemporary dance company whose mission is to inspire conversations about the lasting effects of violence and conflict on communities, families and individuals. And from September 29 to October 4, artist Nathan Lewis will lead a Combat Paper Project event, which will bring together veterans and other workshop participants in a week-long paper-making and book-making workshop. Participants in Combat Paper workshops reclaim their uniforms or other clothing of significance to them by cutting them up, beating them into pulp and forming them into sheets of paper. At the Allegheny workshop, participants will create works of art that will be exhibited at the college with Combat Paper artworks made by national and international artists.

Scheduled for later in the semester are a talk on October 16 by voting rights expert Gilda Daniels; a talk on November 4 by Allegheny graduate and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission commissioner Victoria Lipnic; and a panel discussion on November 20 on “Religious Minorities, Voting Rights, and Democratic Participation in South Asia.”

More information on times and locations – as well as events planned for spring 2015 — can be found at www.allegheny.edu/200. Year of Voting Rights and Democratic Participation events are free with the exception of the Playshop Theatre production.