Panel Discussion Approaching Reconciliation, or the Discomfort of Remembrance

Two markers vandalized Left: Vandalized Emmett Till Marker © Ashleigh Coleman | Right: Vandalized Levi Harrington Marker © Jutta Behnen

Tue, 12/01/2020


An event in the framework of Shaping the Past

Join us for a conversation about “Approaching Reconciliation, or the Discomfort of Remembrance” between Shaping the Past Fellow Patrick Weems, Executive Director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, Berlin-based American philosopher Susan Neiman, author of Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil, artist Glenn North, Co-Liaison of the Community Remembrance Project Missouri in Kansas City, and Dave Tell, Co-Director of the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Kansas.
The conversation will touch on two places of remembrance for victims of lynching—Levi Harrington in Kansas City, MO and Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta—whose horrific deaths are commemorated through site-specific markers, performative actions, educational programs, and more. Our speakers will discuss the various approaches to memorialization in both cases, the regular attacks on these memorials, and how these acts of racial terror in the past and their memorialization in the present continue to shape these communities and our society as a whole.
Joining from both sides of the Atlantic, our speakers will talk about approaches to memorialization and reconciliation and why this can often be a long-term and painful process, both in Germany and the US. They will also explore what Germans and Americans can learn from each other through this process of facing and (re)shaping the past.
About the speakers:
Patrick Weems Photo: © Patrick Weems Patrick Weems co-founded and serves as director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi, which uses art and storytelling to share the Emmett Till tragedy and facilitate racial healing. A graduate of the University of Mississippi, Weems holds a Master’s degree from the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. He was recently awarded a Fellowship from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and is Monument Lab 2020 Fellow in the project Shaping the Past.
Susan Neiman Photo: © Bettina Volke Susan Neiman was born in Atlanta, Georgia and now lives in Berlin, Germany, where she is the director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam. Neiman studied philosophy at Harvard and the Free University Berlin and was professor of philosophy at Yale and Tel Aviv University.
In her latest book, Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil (2019), her chapter “The Faces of Emmett Till” explores different perspectives on his story and approaches to memorialization and reconciliation.
Glenn North Photo: @ Glenn North Glenn North is the Executive Director of the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center and also a Co-Liaison for the Equal Justice Initiative and Community Remembrance Project of Missouri that initiated the installation of the Levi Harrington Memorial—the first marker remembering a victim of a lynching in Kansas City. North is a spoken word artist and the author of City of Song, a collection of poems inspired by Kansas City’s rich jazz tradition and the Black experience.
Dave Tell Photo: © Johnathon Kelso Dave Tell is Professor of Communication Studies, Co-director of the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities, and a Faculty Fellow in the University Honors Program at the University of Kansas. Professor Tell is a former fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities and a founding director of the Emmett Till Memory Project. His writing on the Till murder has been published in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Atlantic Monthly, LitHub and a wide range of academic journals. His book Remembering Emmett Till (2019) was listed as a 2019 book of the year by the Economist and winner of the Mississippi Historical Society’s 2020 McLemore Prize.

This event takes place on December 1, at 12:00 pm CST on Zoom. Registration is required—please use the link to register.

Leading up to this panel discussion, we also invite you to join us for an online screening of the documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till by Keith Beauchamp, which will be available to stream between November 27-29.
Shaping the Past is a partnership of the Goethe-Institut, Monument Lab, and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Agency for Civic Education). The project connects to the activist and artistic work of local, national, and transnational movements as a reflection of memory culture and discusses new perspectives on forms of memory.