Click here to download the program


  • A shuttle will transport conferees from Club Quarters hotel to conference site & back each day and to and from the cultural event and dinner Thursday evening at Alhambra ($10 – $20 for dinner and party) and Friday evening to the Silver Room (Friday eve. event is free).
  • Youth track will be available for children (ages 6 – 12), upon request.
  • Translation and sign language provided (please notify us of need).
  • Tweeting is encouraged. #FDFN2014
  • Conference will be live-streamed through the UIC Social Justice Initiative Facebook page and,
  • Photo, quilt and art displays will be at the conference site, please take time to experience them.
  • Mary Scott Boria will preside over a quilters’ corner to help us craft a freedom quilt during the conference.  Please participate.
  • Box lunches are available Thursday and Friday in lobby for nominal fee ($5-$10). Make your choices at registration.
  • Gender-neutral restrooms available.


Freedom Dreams Freedom Now

Conference Site: Student Center West (SCW)

 at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

828 S. Wolcott Street

Registration is highly recommended. Space is limited to 500.

Please check conference website for updates and full bios of participants


Wednesday May 28, 2014

4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Registration table open at conference site lobby for pre-registered participants: 828 S. Wolcott, second floor. Confirmation of lunch and dinner should be made at the registration table.

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Opening Plenary

Thompson Room, Student Center West (SCW) 


Slide show of Civil Rights images (courtesy of Maria Varela)

Vocal opening by Avery Young, “Mississippi Goddamn”


Reflections on Freedom Summer

with Civil Rights Activists from 1964


Julian Bond, co-founder of SNCC, first President of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and former board chair of the NAACP.
Introduction of Julian Bond by Joe Hoereth, Director of Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement at UIC


Young Chicago Authors’ poets from the Team Englewood Community Academy:
Alicia Hinton, David Holmes, Dallas Battle, Kenyatta Tolbert

Roundtable Conversation

Freedom Summer Participants & SNCC veterans Julian Bond, Zoharah Simmons, Dottie Zellner, Peter Orris, and Fannie Rushing, Charlie Cobb, Maria Varela

Moderator: Barbara Ransby, Professor and Director of Social Justice Initiative

A short suite of “Freedom Songs” by one of Chicago’s most gifted vocalists, Ms. Dee Alexander

8:30 – 10:30 p.m. Film Screening

Thompson Room, SCW 

Chicago premiere of PBS documentary, “Freedom Summer,” by award-winning filmmaker, Stanley Nelson  (112 min)

Tweet your thoughts about the film at #FDFN2014.

Thursday May 29, 2014


8:00 – 9:00 a.m. Registration table at conference site lobby for pre-registered participants: 828 S. Wolcott, second floor. Confirmation of lunch and dinner should be made at the registration table.

MCs for Thursday and Friday are:

Isis Ferguson, Deana Lewis, Marco Roc, Obari Cartman, and Kesh Ross

9:00– 10:30 a.m. Plenary Thompson Room, SCW

Reflections on Freedom Struggles of the Past: Charismatic Leaders, Feminist Voices and Grassroots Organizing

This panel will bridge past and present struggles by examining first how we remember the past, who and what is left out, distorted or mythologized as we look back at the 1960s. Younger activists will address how they have been influenced by past movements but how contemporary realities differ. 

Peniel Joseph, Professor, Tufts University, author of Stokely 
Robyn Spencer, Lehman College history Professor
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Professor, Spelman College, editor of Words of Fire
Jasson Perez, BYP 100, former organizer for SEIU
Philip Agnew, Dream Defenders
Cathy Cohen, Professor of Political Science, Black Youth Project
Fannie Rushing, Professor & SNCC veteran
Moderator: Tracye Matthews, Center for Research on Race, Politics and Culture at University of Chicago

10:15 – 10:30 a.m.  Ella Baker Monologue by Ella’s Daughters and guest:
Isis Ferguson, Aisha Truss-Miller, Sabina Varela, Alexis Pegues, Ainsley Lesure

10:40– 12:00 p.m. Plenary Thompson Room, SCW

Critical Struggles, Breaking Down Silos: Movement Building in 2014 and Correcting Myths about the Past

One of the challenges of “movement building” past and present is how to get beyond single issues and single communities to forge a broad-based movement that seeks transformative justice. It is easier to focus on racism narrowly defined or immigration or jobs but a bigger challenge, which also confronted activists of the 1960s, is how to forge meaningful ties across the boundaries of difference that still recognize the inequality and privilege that exists among activists themselves. SNCC and Freedom Summer participants confronted this question but still addressed multiple issues of oppression: poverty, racism, war, and disenfranchisement and built alliances with an eclectic array of activists, organizations and individuals. In forging unity, what kind of “movement” is it that we seek?

Emery Wright, Project South
Reyna Wences, immigration activist, Immigrant Youth Justice League
Marisa Franco, National Day Laborer Organizing Network
Charlie Cobb, former SNCC member, Senior Writer and Diplomatic Correspondent for
Leena Odeh, student, Northeastern Law School and longtime activist
Moderator: Charlene Carruthers, BYP100

11:40 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Complex Movements, a Detroit-based artists’ collective, will coordinate activity with audience engagement. 

12:00– 12:40 p.m.  Lunch Break (sandwiches and salads available in lobby, including vegetarian options, for a small fee paid at the registration table)

12:25 – 12:35 p.m. Lunchtime performance by Kuumba Lynx (invited) Thompson Room, SCW

12:40– 1:55 p.m. Plenary Thompson Room, SCW

Politics in the Age of Obama: The Power & Limits of Electoral Strategies

The fight for the ballot was a life and death struggle in Mississippi in 1964. Democracy and freedom are often equated with ‘voting’ in the mainstream media. But while voting is important, it is also limited in terms of what we can vote for, who can afford to run for office, and even who is eligible and empowered to cast a ballot (given felony disenfranchisement and voter suppression). This is not a panel “about” President Obama but about how our views of voting may have shifted over time, especially in the wake of Obama’s election and two-term administration. More fundamentally, this panel seeks to ask the question – can we vote our way to freedom? Why is voting important on one level, but what needs to change to make democracy more of a reality on another level? And why are other strategies and tactics as important or, some argue, more important than electoral politics for realizing social change? How do electoral politics fit into our concept of ‘freedom’ in the broadest sense?

Rosa Clemente, former Green Party V.P. Candidate
Amisha Patel, Grassroots Collaborative
Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Jackson, MS
Yohuru Williams, Professor and Dir., Black Studies, Fairfield University
Che “Rhymefest” Smith, artist, activist & former Chicago Alderman Candidate
Moderator: Keeanga Taylor, Assistant Professor, African American Studies, Princeton University, & activist 

2:05 – 3:25 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Session A: Trans-national and Indigenous Solidarity Work, Thompson Room, SCW

This session looks across borders and across time to ask questions about solidarity: how do we express solidarity in a meaningful and principled way? With complex situations all over the world, it’s not enough to say we are with the South African people or the Cree Nation or Haiti or Syria. Internal divides within those countries/ nations and movements are real. But how do ‘outsiders’ make a judgment? What are models for cross-border solidarity and how does the continued metaphor of borders relate to issues of indigenous and first people’s rights? Moreover, the session will talk about the importance of trans-national work and solidarity with indigenous struggles growing out of the experiences of the panelists. Most importantly, how are our struggles for freedom in the 21st century inescapably global and what are the terms, structures, documents and concepts around which we can rally? Human Rights? UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance from 2001 in Durban? Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Lisa Brock, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Kalamazoo College
Nadine Naber, UIC Professor of GWS & ASAM, & Arab Women’s Activist Network
Steven Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
Prexy Nesbitt, US Africa Network, and former Anti-Apartheid Activist
Walter Riley, Haiti support activist, Oakland, CA
Crystal Lameman, Bear Cree Nation activist and tar sands campaigner (Alberta)
Andy Clarno, sociologist researching South Africa and Palestine
Moderator: Lynette Jackson, Africanist historian and activist, Prof. at UIC, GWS and African American Studies

Session B: The Black Community, Sexual Politics and Marriage Equality

Film screenings & discussion: “The New Black” (TNB) SCW 219

This acclaimed new documentary, “The New Black,” by Yoruba Richen chronicles the organizing effort to win marriage equality in Maryland and the struggle inside the Black community and the Black Church over this issue. Participants in the film and the campaign (in Maryland and elsewhere) will offer reflections on the issue within the context of the overriding Freedom Dreams Freedom Now conference question: what do we want and what is freedom in the largest sense of the term? Does marriage equality get us there or does it bring us closer? Does it democratize a longstanding patriarchal institution or does it promote conformity? How has the debate played out in the Black community?

Karess Taylor-Hughes, organizer featured in TNB about marriage equality & the Black Church
Yvonne Welbon, co-producer of TNB and independent filmmaker and media scholar
Angie Rollins, Chicago activist and BYP100 member
Moderator: Cathy Cohen, political scientist, Black queer activist, Professor, University of Chicago

Session C

Leadership, Popular Education and Organizing Styles and Strategies: Paulo Freire, Ella Baker and Education for Liberation 8175 COMRB

Many times we talk about access to education, working conditions and pay for teachers and the defunding of public education, but this panel will talk about the approach, concept, philosophy and underlying values and politics that inform HOW we teach and learn. Each panelist will address the question: what does a liberatory education really mean from the vantage point of their experience or research working in a particular model, tradition or school setting? How can we set the stage for students to become social justice actors and schools to be sites for critical and liberatory thinking?

Albert Sykes, Advocacy and Policy Director, Young People’s Project, Jackson, MS
Hilda Franco, Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy
Tony Alvarado Rivera and Imani Smith, Chicago Freedom School
Nakisha Hobbs, Village Leadership Academy
Tara Mack, Education for Liberation Network
Natalie Bennett, Granville Reading and Art Programme, Jamaica & UIC
Fabricio Balcazar, Freirian Scholar, UIC
Moderator: Amanda Lewis, Professor, African American Studies & Sociology, UIC, author of Race on the Schoolyard 

Session D

Alternative Media and Technology Tactics SCW 213

Alternative media has always been critical for social justice movements. In many recent US and global movements, social media has played a role. Malcom Gladwell once wrote, “the revolution won’t be tweeted,” emphasizing the importance of face-to-face organizing. Still, traditional and alternative media (radio and print) as well as robust social media networks are important sites of organizing and struggle. As we imagine “freedom” how do these forms of media play a role? Are they democratizing or presenting new ways that divide us generationally and in terms of access to technology? What are the opportunities, challenges and what is the role of activist media in the context of a democratized and ‘free’ media in the best sense of the term?

Moya Bailey, former member, CRUNK feminist collective
Suey Park, cyber activist and writer
Akiba Solomon, reporter for Colorlines, New York City
Shayla Scales, University of Michigan student activist with #BBUM campaign
Elizabeth Robinson, longtime alternative media activist, Santa Barbara
Laura Flanders, GriTV, New York, journalist, author, media activist
Moderator: Alice Kim, writer and visiting lecturer, UIC 

Session E

Sexual Freedom and Reproductive Justice SCW 206

How can there be any freedom without basic freedom of one’s body and sexual expression? This panel will explore issues of reproductive justice from an intersectional perspective, including the legacy of women of color activism around these issues as in the case of Flo Kennedy. The panel will frame the discussion of sexual freedom, from LGBTQIA identities to the ways in which the politics of respectability, misogyny and patriarchy police the sexual expression of queer and heterosexual people. Debates about single motherhood and fatherhood are part of a larger set of structures and assumptions about how power operates in our society. How do we envision a society in which sexualities are not policed and bodies are not coerced to fit into certain identities? In the spirit of the conference we want to think imaginatively about liberatory possibilities but without assuming that everyone shares that same vision. Does this mean rethinking or transcending “family”? Does it mean new categories or no categories? What languages capture our visions in terms of ways of conceiving of our sexuality and reproductive roles? 

Elena Gutierrez, Associate Professor, UIC Gender and Women’s Studies and LALS
Sherie Randolph, Asst. Professor, U. of Michigan, author of forthcoming book on Flo Kennedy
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, South Asia Coordinator of Peoples Health Movement and the Steering Committee Member of the National Alliance on Maternal Health and Human Rights
Dayo Gore, activist and historian, UC San Diego
Daisy Zamora, UIC student and queer activist
Owen Daniel-McCarter, Legal Director at the Trans Life Center of Chicago House
Danielle McGuire, award-winning author and Assistant Professor in History, Wayne State University
Moderator: Jennifer Brier, historian and curator of “Out in Chicago” exhibition at Chicago History Museum in 2012

Session F

Embodying Our Revolutionary Visions (an experiential workshop) SCW 218

Grounded in principles of solidarity across movements and the value of dialogue across cultures, this interactive session combines Theatre of the Oppressed games and participant storytelling to engage the conference call, “What are we for?” as we collect varied experiences, responses and epiphanies of conference participants. Theatre of the Oppressed approaches emerging out of Freire’s work in Pedagogy of the Oppressed are employed internationally, combining image and story, discipline and freedom, to expand cultural understanding and imagine alternate outcomes and actions in a more socially just world.

Lori Barcliff Baptista, Director, African American Cultural Center, UIC
Rosa Cabrera, Director, Latino Cultural Center, UIC
Megan Carney, Director, Gender and Sexuality Center, UIC
Willa Taylor, Director, Education and Community Engagement, Goodman Theatre
Sara Vogt, Disability Specialist, Disability Resource Center, UIC
Rebecca Gordon, Director, Women’s Leadership and Resource Center, UIC

Session G

Radical Lawyering, Rights and Repression: Can We Imagine a Truly Fair and Free System of Justice? 3175 COMRB

The courts are ostensibly the sites where justice is demanded and dispensed. Lawyers, litigants and those prosecuted have often found justice elusive. Racism and class bias are rampant in our legal system: from the McCarthy era of the 1950s to COINTELPRO in the 1960s to surveillance and prosecution of dissidents today, including the continued plight of political prisoners and exiles. This panel will talk about the work of radical lawyers and legal campaigns and projects. The conference is about “freedom dreams” but who can dream of freedom in jail, in prison, locked up? The line between how popular consensus dictates who deserves, even nominally, to be ‘free’ and who doesn’t is a critical line. These lawyers have problematized notions of “the innocent” and “the guilty” and on some level have interrogated the assumptions that critical race theorists have so deftly challenged, about the so-called neutrality of the law.

Purvi Shah, Bertha Social Justice Institute, Center for Constitutional Rights, NYC
Flint Taylor, People’s Law Office in Chicago
Jasmine Davis, Know Your Rights Project in Englewood with First Defense Legal Aid
Cheryl Graves, J.D., Community Justice for Youth Institute
Dima Khalidi, Attorney, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support
Alejandro Molina, Boricua Human Rights Organization, Chicago
Moderator: Leena Odeh, Law Student at Northeastern University Law School

Session H

Sage Community Health Collective, Healing, Rejuvenation Space/ Workshop 6175 COMRB

In this session we will spend time thinking and practicing the values of Healing Justice. Together we will ask and answer the questions: What is the difference between self-care and healing justice? How does healing justice intersect with Transformative Justice and Prison Abolition? What are we doing in Chicago to address generational trauma? And what additional tools does our community need to make this concept real? Using mind, body and spirit connections, participants will leave equipped to integrate Healing Justice values and concrete tools into their existing work. This workshop will be hands-on and participatory.

Shira Hassan, Director of the Former Young Women’s Empowerment Project
Stacy Erenberg, Sage Community Health Collective (

Session I

Family Room/ Break Room SCW 216

3:30 – 4:50 p.m. Plenary

The Power of Art: Freedom Dreams and the Manufacture of Desire Thompson Room, SCW

Art is at the crux of “freedom dreams.” Artists help us imagine new possibilities. This panel will explore the radical transformative possibilities of art and art making. If the liberatory power of art and culture is one side of the equation, the manipulation and manufacture of our desires through commodity culture is the other. How do we envision a different role for artists in our society and in movements for change? How does misogynist culture and commercialized art compromise our ability to envision liberatory art practices? Where do neoliberalism and new technologies of production and distribution fit in? This panel of artists, art scholars, activists and organizers will explore these questions as they wrestle with the central theme of the conference: forging our collective dreams of freedom.

Tony Bogues, Professor, Brown University, author of Empire of Liberty: Power, Freedom and Desire and co-curator of “Reframing Haiti-Art”
dream hampton, writer, filmmaker, social justice organizer, Detroit, MI
Mark Anthony Neal, cultural critic, author, Duke University Professor
Kevin Coval, poet, author, educator, founder of “Louder Than a Bomb” poetry slam
Coya Paz, Free Street Theater, Chicago, IL
Ronak Kapadia, Gender & Women’s Studies Professor (UIC) & former member of Fierce, has written about artists M.I.A. and Wafaa Bilal
Iván Arenas, SJI Fellow, former member, ASARO arts collective in Oaxaca, Mexico
Moderator: Lisa Yun Lee, Director, Art & Art History Program, UIC

5:00 – 6:15 p.m. Plenary Thompson Room, SCW

What is the 21st Century Landscape of Injustice? Carceral States: Surveillance, Prisons, Police, and Immigration Detention

This panel will explore what Beth Richie and others term “the carceral state.” The focus will be on the growing prison industry and the links to the criminalization of communities from the increased surveillance of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission and COINTELPRO in the 1960s to NSA surveillance practices and the epidemic of mass incarceration today.

Beth Richie, Professor, UIC, author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation
Mariame Kaba, Project NIA
John Dittmer, Bancroft prize-winning historian of Local People and Good Doctors
Liat Ben-Moshe, editor of Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada
Joey Mogul, People’s Law Office
Ahmad Rahman, UM-Dearborn Professor, former Black Panther political prisoner
Moderator: Randolph Carr III, anti-mass incarceration activist, New York

6:45 – 9:00 p.m. Mega-Community Dinner with suggested seating to make sure everyone is included and dialogue across various boundaries occurs. We will be graciously hosted by Alhambra Palace Restaurant, 1240 W. Randolph. Two performances will punctuate the evening followed by music and dancing. Suggested donation for dinner is on a $10-$20 sliding scale. Shuttles will be available.

7:00 – 7:20 p.m. Dinner Performance by About Face Theater on themes of queer undocumented youth. In a preliminary reading of this original play, characters explore the often overlooked intersection between immigration and the LGBTQIA experience. Through storytelling, spoken word, and movement, these talented young people share experiences of coming out and growing up.  Inspired by the burgeoning “Undocuqueer” movement in our country, Checking Boxes is based on the true experiences of the ensemble members and members of the LGBTQIA community.

7:20 – 8:30 p.m. Dinner and discussion

8:30 – 9:10 p.m. Performance of “Two Years Later (after Trayvon),” a performance by six incredible and inspiring young poets from Chicago who interrogate and explore their truths in response to the loss of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman.

Tweet your thoughts about the dinner performances at #FDFN2014.

9:10 p.m. – midnight.  Music and dancing with Chicago DJ Collective at Alhambra Palace Restaurant

Shuttles will transport out of town guests and those in need of transport back to campus and hotels beginning at 10:30 p.m. to midnight.

Friday May 30, 2014

9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Registration table at conference site lobby for pre-registered participants: 828 S. Wolcott, second floor. Confirmation of lunch and dinner should be made at the registration table.

10:00 – 11:30 a.m. Plenary

Intergenerational, Youth and Campus Organizing Thompson Room, SCW

This session will begin with a short overview of the struggles of Black students in the 1960s, which laid the foundation for Black Studies and the further desegregation of higher education. We will then shift to hear about the current struggles on four key campuses, yet not simply as a report from the battlefield, but rather on what the visions of change and freedom are that underlie these efforts. What do student organizers in 2014 want? A ‘freedom budget’ and new economic priorities? Ethical investment policies related to global justice and prisons? Fair and humane policies for undocumented students? A ‘freedom agenda’ as implied by the work of BYP100 and Dream Defenders? What is the ‘dream’ of collective freedom today as it plays out in these youth-led struggles? How might they link to one another?

Martha Biondi, author of Black Revolution on Campus, Professor, Northwestern U.
Kashira Ayers, UCSB, activist on prison divestment and anti institutional racism
Alexis Wright, UCSB, Black Student Union activist
Jalil Bishop, Dartmouth University activist
Ozi Uduma, #BBUM at U of Michigan
Suha Najjar, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, Divest UM, U of Michigan
Jessica Pierce, BYP 100, Washington, D.C.
Imani Brown, Columbia Prison Divest
Ciara Taylor, Dream Defenders
Moderator: Toussaint Losier, recent Ph.D., & former student activist at Harvard and University of Chicago

11:40 – 1:10 p.m. Plenary

Why is Education the Epicenter of the Struggle for Freedom in the U.S.? Thompson Room, SCW

From the struggle for public education in the wake of slave emancipation to the Supreme Court battles over desegregation in the 1950s, to the recent fierce and brilliant Chicago Teachers Union strike, the value of education has been a critical issue in the struggle for racial and social justice. Who gets educated and how are key. The amount of resources devoted to educating some and not others; access to higher education; the climate in schools and on campus as well as the content of what students learn are hotly debated topics. Schools (k-12 and college) are major ‘socializing’ institutions in our society and have the potential to either breed conformity or produce critical thinkers. This panel will not only critique current assaults on public education, but more importantly, discuss how we might imagine education and learning differently. This includes form and content, the physical space of schools, and how teachers and students are taught and treated. How is education linked to a whole host of other social problems and possibilities?

Karen Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union
Prudence Browne, UIC, NOLA and Education in Crisis
Asha Ransby-Sporn, activist, student: SAMI, Columbia Divest
Laura Emiko Soltis, Freedom University, Atlanta, GA
Pauline Lipman, UIC Professor, and Teachers for Social Justice
Moderator: Elizabeth Todd-Breland, Asst. Professor of History, UIC

1:00– 1:10 p.m.Artistic Intervention Thompson Room, SCW

1:10 – 1:55 p.m. Lunch Break (sandwiches and salads available in lobby, including vegetarian options, for a small fee paid at registration).

Author book signing: Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Joey Mogul, Martha Biondi, Roderick Ferguson, John Dittmer, Nadine Naber, Rhonda Williams and other authors will be available to sign books at the Haymarket Books table in the lobby.

2:05– 3:45 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Session A

Faith-inspired Freedom Struggles and Faith-Based Opposition 6175 COMRB

Faith, religion and spirituality have been catalysts for social justice movements and the source of strength for oppressed people to endure hardship. They have also been used as wedges to divide, conquer and condemn. However, from liberation theology to the role of progressive Black Churches during the Civil Rights Movement, the spirit of generosity and forgiveness that is a part of Islam, Judaic traditions, Buddhism and others, there is a basis that spiritual people draw upon to fight the good fight for justice. How do we honor these traditions without becoming self-righteous or sectarian, looking down upon secular activists? How do we cling to “our faith” of choice or birth, but find room to accept others as allies and collaborators in social justice work? What is the role of ‘faith’ in primarily secular struggles and campaigns and in politics in general? How do we recognize the individual beliefs of others but still navigate a common ground of acceptance for choices and policies that might not conform to religious teachings? Reproductive choice and LGBTQIA rights are but two examples. 

Rachel Harding, Assistant Professor of Indigenous & Spiritual Traditions, University of Colorado, Denver
Rami Nashashibi, Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), Chicago
Rabbi Brant Rosen, author of Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity
Reverend Janette Wilson, Attorney & National Director, PUSH Excel
Co-moderator: Zoharah Simmons, former SNCC member with Quaker, Baptist and Sufi background, Assistant Professor of Religion, University of Florida
Co-moderator: Aja Reynolds, UIC College of Education student

Session B

Civil Disobedience as a Tactic: Immigrant Rights, Civil Rights, Economic Justice and Anti-militarism Non-violent Direct Action 8175 COMRB

Martin Luther King, in his famous “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” called on all Americans to actively but peacefully oppose laws that were morally wrong. Civil disobedience continues to be a widely used tactic to protest injustice. How is it also a part of liberation and envisioning freedom? How do such tactics also ‘free us from fear’ individually and collectively? During the Civil Rights Movement, SNCC and other groups engaged in civil disobedience and were also harassed and arrested even when they did not break the law. Today, immigration activists and “Moral Mondays” protests in North Carolina have involved hundreds of arrests. Similarly, the anti-eviction and pro-health access movements in Chicago has experienced numerous protestor arrests. Each of these activists will talk about personal choices and the political tactics of civil disobedience as part of envisioning freedom.

Tim Tyson, “Moral Mondays”, Professor, Duke Divinity School, author & historian
Lulu Martinez, immigration rights activist held in detention for her actions
Maya Ann Evans, UK based activist who has mainly focused on campaigning against the ongoing war in Afghanistan
Rosi Carrasco, immigration rights activist involved with civil disobedience actions
Toussaint Lossier, historian, anti-eviction campaign
Fannie Rushing, Professor, Benedictine University, SNCC veteran, and Freedom Summer Participant
Moderator: Amalia Pallares, Director, Latin American and Latino Studies, UIC, co-author, Marcha!

Session C

Fighting for the Right to the City Thompson Room, SCW

Chicago is the site of a fierce battle over the future of its neighborhoods, services and institutions. The same is the case for Detroit, Newark, and in different ways, New York and New Orleans. Who has a right to public spaces and resources, the wealthy who get tax breaks to invest in cities and want protected urban playgrounds free of public housing and other signs of poverty, or the majority of urban residents? These are critical questions as the nature of modern cities change. A coalition, named “Right to the City” describes its mission this way: “Right to the City (RTTC) emerged in 2007 as a unified response to gentrification and a call to halt the displacement of low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color from their historic urban neighborhoods.” This panel will explore what is going on in key cities not as descriptive ‘horror stories’ but rather as an invitation to imagine, as the Boggs Center does in Detroit, the possibilities for new urban farms, coalitions, communities and experiments. Unaffordable housing and gentrification are key problems, but grassroots mobilizations by women as well as university-community partnerships may hold hopeful signs for future change and transformations. Panelists will briefly offer examples of these actions and models looking forward.

Tawana Petty, James and Grace Lee Boggs Center, Detroit, MI
Zenzele Isoke, activist and author of Urban Black Women & the Politics of Resistance
Rosemary Ndubuizu, ONE DC
Shana Griffin, New Orleans activist, Women’s Health and Justice Initiative
Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Jackson, MS
Rhonda Williams, Social Justice Institute, Case Western Reserve University
Adam Green, historian, University of Chicago
Moderator: Teresa Cordova, Director, Great Cities Institute, UIC

Session D

Food Sovereignty, Environmental Justice & Racism SCW 206

Food justice and sovereignty are key issues, as is environmental justice. What is our cutting edge analysis of how this fits into or is an overarching issue in terms of social justice / social transformation and ‘freedom’? Perhaps we could flip the question and say: We could have food sovereignty and still not have full freedom but we cannot have full freedom without food justice. Is that a fair statement? What is the importance, power, potential and limits of a food justice movement? And what terms are the most useful in our political language around this issue: “food justice,”  “food sovereignty,” “environmental justice,” or “sustainability.” How do you see links with environmental justice and food justice work / analysis? How do class and race fit in? How do the current food and environmental crises relate to the general crisis of capitalism? How do we make analytical and people-to-people connections with food and environmental justice activists in other parts of the world given the unequal realities and interdependencies based on privilege? What are some contradictions and limits of ongoing work and the political framing within which it occurs? What are critical principles, demands, practices and models? 

Rose Brewer, Professor, University of Minnesota
Seneca Kern, We Farm America
Antonio Lopez, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
Baba Fred Carter, The Black Oaks Center
Ethan Viets-VanLear, Circles and Ciphers and Rogers Park gardening project
Myrtle Thompson-Curtis, co-founder ‘Feedom’ Freedom Growers, Detroit
Moderator: Dara Cooper, Brooklyn food justice activist

Session E

Alter Destiny: Afro-Futurism and Black Radical Imagination as Engaged Creative Practice 3175 COMRB

Afro-futurism, the radical imaginary, surrealist thinkers, experimental films and other art forms provoke us to think beyond the here and now, beyond the contemporary realities of injustice and suffering to the possibilities of a different way or being, of ordering society, or of relating to one another. We have to exercise the muscles of our imaginations in order to engage in truly transformative work. The quick fix approach to social change will only get us so far. This session focuses on a curated film series entitled “Black Radical Imagination” by Amir George and Erin Christovale, and the visionary work of artist and scholar Denenge Akpem whose work is inspired by the likes of Sun Ra and Octavia Butler. The session will include performative engagement with the audience, and screening of three short films from the series: “Black Bullets,” “Black Magic at the White House,” and “Memory Room.” Tie-ins will be made to anti-prison work.

Denenge Akpem, faculty  member,Columbia College & teaches onAfro-Futurism and Black liberation
Erin Christovale, film curator, Los Angeles, CA
Amir George, founder of Cinema Culture, a grassroots film organization in Chicago
Moderator: Bryant Brown, Students Against Mass Incarceration, New York City

Session F

“Woke Up Black,” A film by Mary Morten SCW 218  

The film chronicles the lives of five Black teenagers and young adults for two years. It offers a glimpse into the ways they confront and navigate racism, sexism, homophobia, as well as the humor, tenacity and toughness that is required to survive. Above all “Woke Up Black” combats myths that portray Black youth as homogenous and disrupts stereotypes that negate their humanity. There will be a post-screening discussion with Mary Morten, Jasmine Thomas, and Jessica Disu (FM Supreme), who will conclude the session by performing some of her work.

Mary Morten, filmmaker, and President, Morten Group
Jessica Disu, rap artist and activist
Jasmine Thomas, Chicago Freedom School Freedom Fellow

URL for trailer:

URL for FM Supreme:

Session G

The Neoliberal University: Higher Education in Crisis and Struggle SCW 213

The move toward the privatization and corporatization of higher education, an over-emphasis on the market and a de-emphasis on public funding characterize this transformation that many have termed “the neoliberal university.” This panel will both diagnose the problem and articulate alternative visions. Discussants will talk about how neoliberal policies and practices have impacted their institutions and work. This session will also engage how student activism, union organizing, and transnational solidarity with colleagues in other parts of the world have pushed back against the dominant trends on college and university campuses.

Rod Ferguson, Professor and author of The Reorder of the Things
Jennifer Alzate, United Coalition for Racial Justice at Univ. of Michigan
Sekile Nzinga-Johnson, Asst. Prof., Gender and Women’s Studies, UIC
Sarah Gonzalez, teacher and education activist
Melissa Padilla and Mayowa Willoughby, Dartmouth student activists
Gina Dent, UC Santa Cruz, feminist scholar, author and activist
Moderator: Deana Lewis, UIC graduate student, activist with Girl Talk at juvenile detention center

Session H

Through a Different Lens: Social Justice Film and Photography SCE 219

This panel on freedom and filmmaking/ photography will ask the question “how do we do the work differently if we are doing racial and social justice work?” How do images capture what words cannot in terms of exposing injustice and provoking us to imagine justice? Maria Varela from SNCC will show some of her photos from the 1960s and the group will imagine new projects that could be transformative.

 Maria Varela, photographer, SNCC activist
Obari Cartman, photographer, community activist and psychologist
Pam Sporn, educator and documentary filmmaker
Sarah Jane Rhee, photographer and social justice activist
Moderator: Yvonne Welbon, filmmaker, Prof. Bennett College

Session I

Family Room / Break Room SCW 216

4:00– 5:30 p.m. Concurrent Sessions

Session A

Freedom and Work: Labor Struggles and Economic Justice Thompson Room SCW

The growing wealth gap, rising poverty and a decrease in union labor raise fundamental questions about the “freedom” we can imagine without work. At the same time, technology challenges us to rethink work. The 8-hour workday was a novel concept at one point. With a growing population, the changing nature of production and new technologies making certain forms of labor obsolete, how might we rethink work? Also, with the push of the market into every aspect of life, how can we question the logic of capitalism by looking at solidarity economies and cooperative economics?

James Thindwa, labor organizer, AFT
Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Economist & author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice
Veronica Avila, ROCUnited, restaurant workers organizer
Dominic Moulden, ONE DC
Tania Unzueta, National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON), D.C.
Therese Quinn, Faculty United union activist and Dir. of Museum Studies, UIC
Martin Macias Jr., Students Against Sweatshops, SJI member, UIC student
Moderator: Premilla Nadasen, Professor, Barnard College, author of Welfare Warriors

Session B

Anti-Violence, Anti-Prison and Restorative Justice Work SCW 213

Through the growing prison abolition movement and corollary restorative justice projects and campaigns, social justice activists are challenging the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) and the epidemic of mass incarceration. This panel invites us to not only critique what Michelle Alexander calls the New Jim Crow, but to imagine alternatives to punishment as a remedy for violence and crime. Can we imagine a world without prisons? Without violence? What does it mean not simply to be anti-violence but pro-peace? Where does healing get factored in as a response to traumatized bodies and communities? How can we avoid the danger of anti-violence discourse descending into individual blame?

Danton Floyd, Truth n’ Trauma Program, Chicago State University
Charity Tolliver, Chicago activist, Soros Fellow
Erica Meiners, Prison Arts Program, NEIU
Dorian Barnwell, Students Against Mass Incarceration, New York City
Alice Kim, anti-death penalty activist and Chicago Torture Justice Memorials member
Leslie Etienne, Project South, Atlanta, GA
Xavier McElrath-Bey, activist, Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth,
Moderator: Natalie Moore, reporter, Chicago Public Radio

Session C

Health as a Human Right: Health, Mental Health and Radical Community Health Projects 3175 COMRB

This session will focus on health as a human right. Without health there is very little freedom, quite literally. Panelists will explore Chicago’s healthcare struggles and the ways in which poor and uneven healthcare and the absence of prevention and healing occur because of systemic problems. The panel will look back to the 1960s for two powerful examples of ‘radical doctoring’ and health provision: the Medical Committee on Human Rights (affiliated with SNCC) and the Black Panther Party’s community health clinics and their efforts to pioneer new community-centered approaches to preventive health care and healing. These and other examples of health care struggles to feed into a bigger discussion of how we can re-imagine ‘health and healing.’

John Dittmer, Prof. Emeritus, DePauw University & author of The Good Doctors
Alondra Nelson, Prof. at Columbia U. &author of Body & Soul
Sam Roberts, Assoc. Prof., Columbia U. & medical historian
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, South Asia Coordinator of Peoples Health Movement and the Steering Committee Member of the National Alliance on Maternal Health and Human Rights
Moderator: Linda Murray, former pres. of American Public Health Assoc., M.D., and activist

Session D

Complex Movements Workshop 8175 COMRB

Complex Movements is a Detroit-based artists’ collective composed of graphic designer/fine artist Wesley Taylor, music producer/filmmaker Waajeed, hip-hop lyricist/organizer Invincible, and creative technologist/multimedia artist Carlos (L05) Garcia. They develop interactive performance work and workshops that illuminate connections between complex science and social justice movements to support the transformation of communities. Their current project “Beware of the Dandelions,” integrates elements of sci-fi, gaming, hip-hop, techno, animation, and architecture, and is being co-produced by Sage Crump. Sage is co-director of Art is Change, which supports work to transform culture in the areas of economy, ecology, community, and creativity. Sage is also a long time member of Alternate ROOTS, and sits on the national advisory committee of Women of Color in the Arts.

Session E

Grassroots Mobilizations in the 1950s and 1960s: Black Agency and the White Anti-Racist Tradition –Ella Baker, the Black Church and Anne Braden SCW 206

A clip from a film on Braden’s extraordinary life will be shown.

This panel focuses on two individuals and one institution that offer a counter-narrative to the top down views of Civil Rights and Southern history: Ella Baker, Anne Braden and rank and file members of the Black Church. Panelists will address principled anti-racist white and interracial activism from the Civil Rights era to the present. Why is it important to remember the Anne Bradens of the Black Freedom Movement? What is the link between Black agency and anti-white racism? How does this history and present politics fuel or animate our freedom dreams in terms of the politics of race and legacy of white supremacy?

Cate Fosl, Assoc. Prof. of Women’s & Gender Studies/ History, and Director, Anne Braden Institute (ABI) for Social Justice Research & author of Subversive Southerner
Jamie Beard, Staff at ABI
Mariam Williams, Staff at ABI
Aldon Morris, Prof., Northwestern University, author of Origins of the Civil Rights Movement
Ann-Meredith Wootton, NOLA and youth and arts activist, and grad student, College of Education, UIC
Tim Tyson, historian and author of Radio Free Dixie: Robert Williams and the Roots of Black Power
Moderator: Jennifer Ash, historian, UIC Ph.D. student, and former faculty member, Bennett College

Session F

A Workshop with Honey Pot Collective SCW 219
Introduction by Prudence Browne, Souls Journal Managing Editor, UIC

Honey Pot Performance is a collaborative creative community committed to chronicling Afro-diasporic feminist and fringe subjectivities amidst the pressures of contemporary global life. HPP draws upon a central notion found both in performance studies and black feminist discourse: non-Western, everyday popular and/or folk forms of cultural performance are valuable sites of knowledge production and cultural capital for subjectivities that often exist outside of mainstream communities. URL:

Session G

Freedom Quilting: A Workshop 6175 COMRB

A group of quilters invite you to help assemble a “Freedom quilt.” The quilt will reflect different “patches” of work of conference participants. Our goal for the conference is to engage in political and intellectual quilting and to break down some of the silos that currently contain our work: to cross boundaries of age, region, issues and identities. The art practice of quilting is tedious, creative, collective work that requires patience, perseverance and attention to detail. The actual quilt parallels the metaphoric quilting work of the conference. Please consider joining the quilters circle to create a tangible outcome and artwork that marks the conference event.

Mary Scott Boria, quilter and activist
Elizabeth Smith, quilter
Georgette Sinkler, quilter and Philosophy Professor, UIC

Session H

“The Stuart Hall Project” SCW 218

“The Stuart Hall Project” is a film centered on the life, politics and work of the renowned Jamaican-born intellectual Stuart Hall. Relying on archival and media footage of Hall’s appearances on British radio and television, the film explores the themes of memory, race and identity through the juxtaposition of events from Hall’s life. In this acclaimed documentary, a major filmmaker tackles a major thinker (“the foremost intellectual of the left in Britain”). Filmmaker John Akomfrah’s wide-ranging, multi-layered portrait of Hall, is described as “more akin to jazz, not only incorporating generous selections of Hall’s favorite musician Miles Davis but also editing together multiple strands of archival material in scintillating riffs that interweave Hall’s life with a political/cultural history of the era.” An abbreviated screening of the film will be followed by a discussion of Hall’s influence on Black diasporic and anti-imperial thought as well as how a discussion of his life sets the stage for next year’s Social Justice Initiative conference, “Bandung and Beyond,” marking the 50th anniversary of the historical anti-colonial gathering in Indonesia. Cultural theorist Stuart Hall was a significant intellectual force among the visual artists and film-makers of what became known as the British Black Arts Movement (BAM) of the 1980s, early 1990s and beyond. He died in February, 2014.

Ronak Kapadia, Gender & Women’s Studies Professor, UIC, & former member of Fierce
Tony Bogues, Professor, Brown University, author of Empire of Liberty: Power, Freedom and Desire and co-curator of “Reframing Haiti-Art”
Lori Barcliff Baptista, Director, African American Cultural Center, UIC

Session I

Family Room / Break Room SCW 216

6:00 – 8:15 p.m. Closing Plenary Thompson Room, SCW


Emily Williams, Associate Director, Social Justice Initiative at UIC, and activist with US Africa Network and Grassroots Curriculum Task Force, will introduce this final plenary

The Art of Freedom Artist Response

Artists Malcolm London and Sage Morgan-Hubbard engage the work of Angela Davis and Robin D.G. Kelley

Closing Conversation

Freedom Dreams remarks and conversation with

Angela Y. Davis and Robin D.G. Kelley

moderated by Barbara Ransby

What is the meaning of freedom? Angela Y. Davis’ life and work have been dedicated to examining this fundamental question and to ending all forms of oppression that deny people their political, cultural, and sexual freedom. Davis’ praxis confronts interconnected issues of power, race, gender, class, incarceration, conservatism, and the ongoing need for social change in the United States. “It is not too much,” writes Robin D.G. Kelly in the introduction to The Meaning of Freedom, “to call her one of the world’s leading philosophers of freedom.” As for Kelley himself, the title of this conference is borrowed from his book, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, in which he eloquently insists: “Without new visions, we don’t know what to build, only what to knock down. We not only end up confused, rudderless, and cynical, but we forget that making a revolution is not a series of clever maneuvers and tactics, but a process that can and must transform us.” It is the engaged struggle and rigorous thinking of both Angela Davis and Robin Kelley as scholars, authors, activists, that have inspired this gathering. In our final plenary, they will share their thoughts on “freedom dreams” for the 21st century.

8:00 – 8:15 p.m. Concluding remarks

and breakdance performance by
Alexander Hayashi
Miles Jackson
Jonathan St. Clair

9:00 p.m. – midnight Closing Conference Socials

In collaboration with the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now conference, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and The Silver Room present

Soul Inspiration Party with Mr. Jaytoo spinning soul jams

at The Silver Room

1442 N Milwaukee Ave.

 Chicago, IL 60622

Shuttle will leave UIC at 8:30 for The Silver Room.

 9:00 – 9:45p.m. Black Power TV author Devorah Heitner introduces Black public affairs television from the 1960s and 1970s, exploring the groundbreaking national and local programs that showcased radical dialogues about black liberation and black creativity.

Powell’s Bookstore will be selling Black Power TV from 9:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Founded in 1997, The Silver Room consistently pushes the parameters of traditional retail operation – building community through social exchange. The Silver Room is a jewelry store, art gallery and vibrant space for community gatherings. Named Chicago’s Best Jewelry Store by the Chicago Reader, The Silver Room is a Chicago cultural institution.

 Chicago’s Historic Jazz Showcase

806 S Plymouth Ct

Chicago, IL 60605

 Limited tickets ($15) for 10:00 p.m. set featuring Chicago drummer and Black music scholar, Dana Hall. Ask at registration and information table.

Freedom Dreams Freedom Now Art & Creative Collaborations

“Freedom Quilts”, Gail Anne Johnson Mitchell

A retired New Jersey public school teacher, Gail Anne Johnson Mitchell uses quilting as a way to document African-American history. Her quilts engage and embrace audiences from young adults to senior citizens. On display at the Freedom Dreams Freedom Now conference are the quilts “Tribute to Ella,” “Black and White,” and “Tribute to August Wilson.”

“Roots of My Resistance: Mississippi 1965-1967”, Maria Varela

One of Maria Varela’s roles as a SNCC member included photographing marches as a way to protect protestors from violence. These photographs are important documents of the Civil Rights Movement. They are an enduring testament to the power of people to come together to change our society in the search for freedom, dignity and social justice.

“Love and Struggle”, Sarah Jane Rhee

Photographer Sarah Jane Rhee has been participating in and covering social movements in Chicago for some time. Her photographs are an important record of social struggle. They are also beautiful and have inspired a lot of conversation in Chicago around the issues the images depict. Collectively, they also demonstrate the importance of struggle as a source of solidarity and love as people come together to fight for, and not just against, something.

“Planting and Maintaining a Perennial Garden VI”, Faheem Majeed

This work is part of an ongoing series utilizing cedar wood panels based on the 1930’s New Bauhaus designed wood paneling of the South Side Community Art Center’s Margaret Burroughs Gallery. In commemoration of Freedom Summer 1964, the “Perennial Garden” will take the form of 13 soap boxes placed outside the main entrance of SCW encouraging the use of this space as a stage for performances, speeches, and congregating.

“Our Freedom Dreams,” Collective Canvas

On April 26th, 2014, UIC’s Latino Cultural Center, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, and Social Justice Initiative invited people to come together to “unleash their radical imagination.” Noting that, “With the power of art and community, we can draw upon our diverse experiences and identities to share collective creative solutions,” this collective canvas was the result.

“Freedom Dreams,” at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum

Hull-House reformers of the Progressive era shaped an emerging vision for democracy emphasizing the importance of freedom and play. Today, we asked civil rights leaders, artists, scholars, workers, and activists to contemplate on: “What is freedom?” and “When in your life have you felt the most free?” Use the provided postcards to add your voice. Your completed postcard will be displayed in the exhibit “Unfinished Business: The Right to Play” currently at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.

Musical and spoken word artists as listed in the program.