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SMC Symposium Explores Cross-Racial Solidarity

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By Lookout Staff

April 26, 2023 -- Santa Monica College (SMC) will host a symposium next month featuring a series of events that explore ways to forge a stronger democracy through cross-racial ties.

The SMC Public Policy Institute (PPI) 2023 Spring Symposium -- which runs May 15 to 19 --features an opening talk by Prof. Ian Haney López and a keynote address by author and economist Heather McGhee.

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There will also be a screening of Derrick Bell's science fiction film "The Space Traders" with a panel discussion and audience Q&A and a student panel discussion addressing the symposium's main theme.

"This year’s SMC PPI Spring Symposium provides a safe space in which to explore and discuss public policy solutions to foster cross-racial solidarity and strengthen democracy," said PPI co-director and SMC adjunct professor Shari Davis.

"We feel it is a crucial time to do so in the current political climate," Davis said.

The symposium kicks off Monday, May 15, with a discussion by Lopez on mass incarceration, wealth inequality and threats to democracy moderated by SMC philosophy professor Dr. Paul Klumpe.

Titled "How We Build Power: Linking Race and Class," the discussion will tap Lopez's current research that "emphasizes the connections between deepening racial divisions and growing wealth inequality in the United States," event organizers said.

Lopez -- who is Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Public Law and a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Berkeley -- has published four books and two anthologies.

The symposium continues Tuesday, May 16, with a screening and panel discussion titled "Putting White Interests on Trial: Derrick Bell’s ‘The Space Traders’ Thought Experiment."

The screening of Bell's controversial science fiction story will be followed by a discussion panel moderated by SMC Public Policy Institute co-director Dr. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, SMC philosophy professor Dr. Amber Katherine and SMC film professor Tim Conley.

Bell was the first tenured African American professor at Harvard Law School and was later a visiting professor at New York University and a dean at the University of Oregon School of Law until his death in 2011.

On Wednesday, May 17, SMC students will host a panel discussion titled “Why Don't We Have Nice Things?" which explores themes of race, class and solidarity.

All three events are free and take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the SMC Student Services Center Orientation Hall (SSC 183) on the SMC Campus, 1900 Pico Boulevard.

The symposium concludes Thursday, May 18, with a keynote address by Heather McGhee, a public policy expert who "promotes solutions to inequality in America," event organizers said.

McGhee will talk about her New York Times bestselling book "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together."

Published by Penguin Random House, the book "offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: racism has a cost for everyone -- not just for people of color," according to promotion for the book.

“The Sum of Us” has been chosen as part of the Santa Monica Reads program, making it the subject of a widespread community discussion.

The event will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at John Adams Middle School (JAMS) Performing Arts Center, 1630 Pearl Street.

The symposium is co-sponsored by a wide range of education, government, and community organizations and donors, including the Associated Students of Santa Monica College, City of Santa Monica, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), SMC Associates, and Santa Monica College Foundation.

More information is available at or by calling 310-434-3541.

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