As part of the Fictive Witnessseries, created by artists Tali Keren and Alex Strada,interdisciplinary scholar Noliwe Rooks will present Accounting for Integration. This lecture-performance asks us to consider the historical and contemporary significance of educational integration on those who experience its most visceral impacts, young people. Starting with verbal and visual portraits of the educational experiences of her grandparents, father, herself and her son, Noliwe Rooks engages often unasked questions about the “rock and a hard place” reality where young people who integrate across lines of race, ethnicity, and economics can find themselves in a situation where, as opportunity paths open, the requirements for advancement extract high emotional and psychological costs for which we do not always account. Noliwe Rooks will be joined by co-founder of Teens Take Charge and student, Whitney Stephenson, for a discussion following the performance.
Noliwe Rooks is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of literature, a professor in Africana Studies, an affiliate faculty member in the Center for Inequality Studies, and a faculty fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell. An interdisciplinary scholar, her most recent book, Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the end of Public Education, which was awarded a Hurston/Wright non-fiction book award, explores the long history of profiting from the undereducation of non-white children in the United States. She understands that educators and educational institutions have long been central to narratives of social progress and equality in the United States, and that education is a foundational building block for a coherent and inclusive vision of democratic possibility and civic inclusion. Accordingly, much of her work over the past two decades has probed the multifaceted narratives, grassroots organizing, institutional initiatives, government policies, legal rulings, and funding strategies for ensuring that children who are neither wealthy nor white have access to education. A scholar who also engages the public, she has appeared on media programs such as Democracy Now and has written on these issues for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Whitney Stephenson is an education advocate and student at Mount Holyoke College where she is majoring in Psychology and Education and minoring in Art with goals to work in Arts Education and Human Rights Law. Co-founding Teens Take Charge, a youth-led organization, at age 17, Whitney revolved her work around empowering New York City public school students to tackle issues of educational inequity in the city. From spoken word poetry to visual art, her pieces address black representation and voice, a major part of her advocacy and activism. Whitney has been featured in Time Magazine’s "Equality Now," Chalkbeat, and featured in CNN’s Podcast Series.