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Television Host and Political Commentator Melissa Harris-Perry Headlines Free Constitution Day Symposium, Sept. 17

Panel Discussion on Structural Racism in America Also Includes ACLU of Pennsylvania’s Reggie Shuford and Artist Titus Kaphar

Posted 08.12.15 by MICA Communications

BALTIMORE -- Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC television host, political commentator, award-winning writer and professor, will headline Constitution Day, a free annual symposium co-sponsored by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU-MD). The panel, moderated by WYPR's The Signal producer and MICA faculty member Aaron Henkin, will also include Reggie Shuford, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA), and artist Titus Kaphar, whose artworks interact with the history of art by appropriating its styles and mediums. The event, titled Black Lives Matter: Structural Racism in 21st Century America, will take place Thursday, Sept. 17 from 7-9 p.m. in Brown Center's Falvey Hall, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave.

The 2015 symposium explores the various facets of "Black Lives Matter," a phrase exposing the enduring legacy of racial disparities, particularly in the criminal justice system in America. With recent scandals of police brutality and misconduct, and subsequent protests and national dialogue, panelists will discuss different analyses, approaches and strategies for understanding and challenging systemic racism in America.

"In light of the racial disparities exposed in the police violence and related turmoil in Ferguson and Staten Island last year, and of course right here in Baltimore this spring, I can not think of a more urgent and timely topic for our panelists to discuss," said Constitution Day organizer and MICA Humanistic Studies Department faculty member Firmin DeBrabander. He added, "What point will be the turning point that transforms policy, law and culture into institutions that respect the dignity and lives of all Americans?"

"The topic of this year's Constitution Day event is both timely and pressing: As a country we must work with urgency and determination to dismantle structural racial bias and its far-reaching, entrenched effects," said Susan Goering, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland. "The tragedy of Freddie Gray's death in Baltimore, and the death of so many others, flows from the failed, racially biased ‘War on Drugs' and the militarization of police departments. Yet police abuse is only a piece of larger systemic violence-in the form of discrimination in housing, education, jobs, and voting rights-that has left Black Americans and other communities of color isolated and marginalized."

Established in 2005, Constitution Day continues the College's tradition of leadership in raising and exploring important political issues. In addition to free tickets distributed in advance to the MICA and ACLU communities, a limited number of free tickets will be available to the general public starting at 3 p.m. on the day of the event.

About the Constitution Day participants:
Melissa Harris-Perry
Melissa Harris-Perry is a Wake Forest University and Duke University graduate, professor, author, host of the Melissa Harris-Perry show on MSNBC and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. Her first book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, received the Best Book Award in the field of race, ethnicity and politics from the American Political Science Association and the W.E.B. Du Bois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Her academic research is influenced by the current challenges facing African Americans and their creative responses to such challenges.

Reggie Shuford
Reggie Shuford is executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA), where he joined in 2011. He has also served as senior staff counsel for the national ACLU's Racial Justice Program, where he helped to pioneer legal challenges to racial profiling practices nationwide, and as chief litigator in challenges to racial profiling, where he lead national litigation efforts. Shuford is a 2009-2010 Harvard Law School's Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow, and received a 2014 Minority Business Leader Award from the Philadelphia Business Journal and a 2014 Humanitarian of the Year Award from the William Way LGBT Community Center. This year, CBS Philly selected him as a GameChanger, and Legal Intelligencer named him Diverse Attorney of the Year.

Titus Kaphar
Titus Kaphar is a graduate of Yale University's School of Art and has artistic works that have been exhibited in national and international galleries and art institutions. Time magazine's art director considered him for the Ferguson project, which resulted in the Yet Another Fight for Remembrance protest painting, because of his demonstrable knowledge about the interplays between African American and police communities, as depicted in some of his previous works. Over the past few years, Kaphar has immersed himself in criminal justice research, with his paintings, drawings and installations speaking to the severity of this social issue. A searing example of this research is the work that garnered the response from the art director, The Jerome Project, a panel of artfully half-concealed mug shots that are of men with Kaphar's father's first and last name who are in the penal system.

Aaron Henkin
Moderator Aaron Henkin is co-creator and producer of the long-running weekly cultural program, The Signal, on Baltimore NPR-affiliate, WYPR Radio. His work has aired nationally on NPR's Morning Edition & All Things Considered, PRI's Studio 360, The World and Hearing Voices and APM's The Story. Henkin is also creator, producer and host of the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings radio series, Tapestry of the Times. He is also an adjunct faculty member in MICA's M.B.A./M.A. in Design Leadership program.

Image captions (top to bottom): Melissa Harris-Perry (photo credit: Ken Bennett, Wake Forest University); Reggie Shuford (image courtesy of ACLU); and Titus Kaphar (©Titus Kaphar; image courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York). 

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 49 states and 65 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. With art and design programs ranked in the top ten by U.S. News and World Report, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.