Category: Race

Black Femininity Series Speaker Spotlights: Social Entrepreneur Saran Kaba Jones

Photo Credit: Forbes Magazine
Photo Credit: Forbes Magazine

Saran Kaba Jones is the Founder and CEO of FACE Africa, a community development organization working to strengthen water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and services in rural communities across sub-Saharan Africa. Since launching FACE Africa in January 2009, the organization has funded over 50 projects and reached 25,000 people in rural Liberia. Prior to founding FACE Africa, Ms. Jones worked at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and as an Investment Project Manager for the Singapore Economic Development Board. She is currently a Board Member of the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Group West/Central Africa and is also a member of the U.S. State Department’s International Information Programs. She has been listed by The Guardian as one of Africa’s 25 Top Women Achievers, by Forbes magazine as one of the 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa and by Black Enterprise as one of 10 International Women of Power. Saran is a frequent speaker on topics including water infrastructure, entrepreneurship and gender equality and has served on panels at the World Economic Forum, Harvard University, MIT, the London School of Economics, and the African Union. Read more

Black Femininity Series Speaker Spotlights: Political Analyst Zerlina Maxwell

Photo Credit: YWCA New York City
Photo Credit: YWCA New York City

Zerlina Maxwell is a TV political analyst, speaker, and writer. She has a law degree from Rutgers Law School and a B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University. Her writing focuses on national politics, candidates, and specific policy and cultural issues including race, feminism, domestic violence, sexual assault, victim blaming and gender inequality. She has consulted with the United States Department of State to promote the use of social media by students in the West Bank and is a frequent speaker at colleges, universities, and organizations. Maxwell has succeeded in leveraging her voice on social media: she has been profiled in The New York Times as a top political Twitter voice to follow during the 2012 election season and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the best Twitter feeds in 2014.  In 2015, Maxwell was one of five journalists invited to travel on Air Force One with President Obama on his trip to Selma for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Maxwell has hosted live political and celebrity interviews for The Huffington Post and her writing has appeared in New York Daily News, The Washington Post, JET, Marie Claire and Maxwell was a frequent fill in host for ‘Make It Plain’ with Mark Thompson on Sirius XM Progress and also a democratic commentator on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. She most recently served as the Director of Progressive Media for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

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Black Femininity Series Speaker Spotlights: Film Producer Rachel Wang

Photo Credit: Chocolate Films | Our Team

Rachel Wang is a Black British filmmaker, producer and entrepreneur. She won the award for Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2015 Black British Business Awards and is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Middlesex University. Wang developed her video production company, Chocolate Films, 15 years ago to produce documentaries and film content. Clients include Buckingham Palace (Royal Collection), Jeep, Arup, Museum of London and the Bargello Museum (Florence). Chocolate Films also serves as a social enterprise that outreaches to disadvantaged young people and adults of diverse community groups and deprived backgrounds with film-making workshops in animation, drama and documentary and community public engagement programs.

Photo Credit: Afro Saxons Chocolate Films
Photo Credit: Afro Saxons Chocolate Films

Wang is passionate about promoting diversity in the media. Her first cinema film, Afro-Saxons, was a feature-length observational documentary that followed five Afro-Caribbean salons as they competed for the biggest hair competition in the UK. In a review by The Guardian the movie was herald for the “unpretentious way” it describes the “creativity and entrepreneurialism in modern Britain, and it’s impossible to watch it without a smile on your face.” Afro-Saxons was re-released in 2015 as part of the British Film Institute’s ‘Britain on Film’ season. Currently, Wang serves as the Creative Director of the award winning web-series 1000 Londoners which was born from her desire to create a digital portrait of London to showcase the eclectic tapestry of Londoners though a diverse collection of 1,000 short documentaries. These three-minute short films are published online and shown in cinemas with the support of the British Film Institute and Film London. The project intends to “insight into the lives of 1000 people who consider themselves to be Londoners, taking in all ages, religions, race, income, interests and opinions.”

Watch her Chocolate Films co-founder Mark Currie give a TedxTalk on 1000 Londoners on YouTube or read an interview of Rachel about the 1000 Londoners project here.

Come to our Black Femininity Series panel on “Black Women on the Screen” and hear Rachel discuss her experience as a Black women in the media and film production industries!

R2X Speaker Spotlight #4: Cecile Kyenge

Today the spotlight is on Member of the European Parliament Cecile Kyenge. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kyenge immigrated to Italy at 18 years old on a student visa to study medicine. She became a certified ophthalmologist in the city of Modena and eventually was appointed Italy’s first ever black minister. During her time as minister of integration, she was the victim of multiple hate-filled campaigns due to her race. Once, giving a speech as minister, an audience member threw bananas at Kyenge in an astonishing act of racism. While this instance stands out, it was not isolated as she has also been called a number of hateful names and even been the subject of doctored photos. Despite facing immense obstacles and challenging Italy’s typically homogenous society, Kyenge was elected to the European parliament in 2014 where she still serves today.

NYU will welcome Cecile Kyenge as the keynote speaker for the Race, Racism, and Xenophobia conference. She will speak about her own experiences facing racism and xenophobia, as well as her attempts to advocate for others that may face the same obstacles, like immigrants. Kyenge’s address will be on October 28th, at 10:00 AM in Hemmerdinger Hall.

R2X Speaker Spotlight #3: Charlton McIlwain

Charlton McIlwain is an Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communications in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. Read how McIlwain describes his work on the Steinhardt website:

“As a researcher, writer and teacher, my primary interests focus broadly on issues of race and media, particularly within the social and political arena. My previous work centered on how political candidates construct, mobilize, benefit or suffer damage from race-based appeals. In 2011 I co-authored the book Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns (Temple University Press). In 2012, the book won the prestigious Ralph Bunche Award, given by the American Political Science Association for the best book addressing ethnic pluralism. The same year, the American Library Association recognized the book as one of the Best of the Best books among academic publishers. In addition to authoring/co-authoring four additional books and close to thirty scholarly journal articles and chapter in edited volumes, and regularly providing expert commentary for local, state, national and international media, I continue to pursue research about racial appeals through collaborative work focused on analyses of individuals’ real-time perceptions of race-based appeals in political advertising, as well as a variety of cognitive/physiological responses to racialized communication. You can stay informed about my ongoing work in that area at theRaceProject.
My recent interests, however, have turned to the intersections of race and digital media, principally as they relate to three primary questions: to what degree can/has the internet and other forms of digital media use lead to increased political participation, voice and influence for people of color?; in what ways might internet use provide greater access to social, professional and economic mobility for people of color?; and in what tangible ways do forms of racial discrimination, disparate treatment and denial of opportunity take place in online environments?”


Read an excerpt from his 2012 book Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns
You can read more about his current projects here:

R2X Student Spotlight #2: Felipe Gomes

This is a series of spotlights of the members of the R2X Student Team who helped organize the successful ‘Teach-In’ in Florence and are helping bring the R2XII-NY to New York. The R2xII-NY Conference will take place this Friday October 28, 2016 from 9am-5pm at NYU’s Hemmerdinger Hall. RSVP here

Felipe Gomes is a sophomore at NYU majoring in Neuroscience and Global Liberal Studies. He spent his first year of college at NYU Florence and was an active participant within the NYU Florence community. Felipe’s passions are for performing, human rights activism, mental health advocacy and multiculturalism in education. Felipe hopes his passion for human rights and coexistence of all differences will one day impact the world for the better.

Felipe has used his voice to empower and inspire his fellow classmates. Check out his performance with fellow NYU student Ashleigh Taylor at the R2X conference last spring in Florence. Come see Felipe and Ashleigh perform on October 28!

R2X Student Spotlight #1: Helen You

This is a series of spotlights of the members of the R2X Student Team who helped organize the successful ‘Teach-In’ in Florence and are helping bring the R2XII-NY to New York. The R2xII-NY Conference will take place on October 28, 2016 from 9am-5pm at NYU’s Hemmerdinger Hall. RSVP here

Helen You played a crucial role in helping to develop the R2X conference in Florence while spending her freshman year in the Liberal Studies program at NYU Florence. She was part of the original committee that met with NYU Florence Executive Director Ellyn Toscano to help design the conference, strongly representing the students’ point of view, and pushing for the inclusion of a more interactive component in the conference that would allow strong student participation and interaction with the speakers. Helen worked with the NYU Florence Digital Studio to make it happen and, the day of the ‘Teach-In’, students participation through the Poll Everywhere platform was a great success.

Helen is currently a sophomore at New York University in Liberal Studies and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in International Relations. Helen was born in Seoul, South Korea and has since grown up in Westchester, New York. A previous intern at La Pietra Dialogues, Helen has a passion for foreign affairs specifically in the realm of international human rights and the impact of foreign policy on the global economy. Her interests include female leadership, gender equality, travelling, soccer, music and history. She plans on attending law school after graduation and pursue a career in the State Department in Washington D.C. as a Foreign Service officer.

You can also check out Helen’s thoughts on how international education has impacted her understanding of ‘Unity in Diversity’ in the speech she was invited to give, along with a panel of NYU Florence students, by the Mayor of Florence at his annual Global Mayor’s Conference in Florence’s historic Palazzo Vecchio in Fall 2015 here.

R2X Speaker Spotlight #2: Yemane Demissie


Yemane Demissie teaches film, television and documentary production, writing and cinema studies classes at NYU’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television at the Tisch School of the Arts. An independent writer, producer, and director, Yemane has received numerous awards for his work including the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the Berlin Prize, and the California Arts Council Artists Fellowship. His work centers around the history of Ethiopia and modern life of Ethiopians. Yemane’s narrative and documentary films have been released in theaters in the United States, Canada, Germany, and in Britain. They have also screened in over fifty international film festivals.

Yemane is currently in postproduction for “The Quantum Leapers: Ethiopia 1930-1975,” a social history documentary series that explores and analyzes the efforts of three generations of western educated Ethiopians to transform their country “from an ancient medieval empire into a modern nation state”.  He is also developing “…and then the rains return” a narrative feature about the struggles of survivors in a small rural community in Ethiopia during the catastrophic influenza pandemic of 1918. (Source: NYU Tisch )

Find out more about the Race, Racism and Xenophobia in a Global Context II – New York Dialogue here and RSVP to attend here

Here is a short video of Yemane talking about his most recent series.

Also read an interview with Yemane on his 2011 film on Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia during the Italo-Ethiopian war

R2X Speaker Spotlight #1: Peggy Cooper Davis


Peggy Cooper Davis will be giving a talk on ‘The Enduring Constitutional and Cultural Legacy of United States Slavery’ at the upcoming Race, Racism and Xenophobia in a Global Perspective II – New York Dialogue at NYU’s Hemmerdinger Hall on October 28, 2016. 

Peggy Cooper Davis is the John S. R. Shad Professor of Lawyering and Ethics at NYU Law School. Cooper Davis joined the NYU Law faculty in September 1983 after having served for three years as a judge of the Family Court of the State of New York and having engaged in the practice and administration of law during the preceding 10 years. She has published two books and more than 50 articles and book chapters, most notably in the premier journals of Harvard, Yale, NYU, and Michigan law schools. Her analyses of cross-racial interactions within the legal system have been widely cited and used in legal training. Her analyses of judicial reliance on the social and psychological sciences have been pivotal to thinking about child placement decision-making in both public law and matrimonial contexts. Her 1997 book Neglected Stories: The Constitution and Family Values and her book-in-progress Enacting Freedom illuminate the importance of anti-slavery and civil rights traditions as guides to the scope and meaning of Fourteenth Amendment liberty interests. Her recent book Enacting Pleasure is a collection of essays exploring the implications of Carol Gilligan’s relational psychology. Davis’s scholarship has also influenced the critique and evolution of legal pedagogy. She now directs the Experiential Learning Lab, through which she develops learning strategies for addressing interpretive, interactive, ethical, and social dimensions of legal practice. Davis has served as chair of the board of the Russell Sage Foundation and as a director of numerous not-for-profit, for-profit, and government entities.

Find out more about the Race, Racism and Xenophobia in a Global Context II – New York Dialogue here and RSVP to attend here

You can read Cooper Davis’ full bio on the website of NYU Law School here

Here is an interesting 2001 article Davis wrote on the neglected stories of African Americans:


Race and Razza: A Dialogue on How Difference is Imagined in Italy and the U.S.

Photo: Grey Area (Black Version) by Fred Wilson (1993) Reproductions of a bust of Nefertiti. Tate Modern.

Ann Morning is a sociologist at NYU. She is primarily interested in the issues of race, demography and the sociology of science, particularly with regards to the way censuses around the world classify ethnic groups as well as how individuals think about their own differences. She has written pieces on race as a social construct, refuting ideas, especially in the modern age, with its highly developed understanding of the human genome, of race as a purely biological separation. Not only that, but Ms. Morning has also studied and written on the way different parts of the world perceive ethnicity, specifically through the way the governments classify groups of people in their censuses. For example, ethnicity can be perceived as being more related to race, so in the U.S. citizens are asked whether they are “Caucasian, African American, etc.” which is code for “White, Black, etc.” This is because, in the U.S., the government sees ethnicity as essentially representing race. Alternatively, other countries will ask whether someone is “Polish, Pakistani, etc.” whereby the ethnicity is defined by nationality rather than race. Furthermore, in keeping in line with her interest in ethnic classifications in censuses, Ms. Morning is also interested in how multiracial individuals identify themselves and how they should be classified.

Join Ann Morning and Marcello Maneri from the University of Milan Bicocca for a discussion on Monday, October 10 about how young people in Italy and the U.S. think about differences between major groups in their respective societies. Event page here

“Race and Razza: Discussing Difference in the U.S. and Italy”, Villa Sassetti, October 10, 6pm. rsvp