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Think & Drink: Unequal Citizens

Wednesday, April 13 2016

By design, early American citizenship was a profoundly unequal institution. Its founding document is not the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the self-evident truth of human equality, but a  Congressional Act—the United States Naturalization Law of 1790. In defining as eligible for naturalized citizenship only those who were legally white, “free”, and of good character, the act excluded both slaves and free blacks, as well as indentured servants, Asians, and indigenous Americans. Even after the race revolutions of Emancipation and Reconstruction, citizenship laws continued to exclude Native Americans and Asians until well into the twentieth century. And not until the Civil Rights Act did federal law intervene to mandate that citizenship in practice live up to its promise. 

Even in this era of formal racial, gender, and sexuality-based equality, many Americans have unequal access to the privileges and protections of citizenship . “Unequal Citizens” will examine the persistence of inequality in some of our country’s largest and most influential institutions, where gender, race, or sexuality have impeded the ability of some to fully realize their potential within those institutions. “Unequal Citizens” will examine the persistence of institutional inequality and points of alliance among official and grassroots efforts to transform them. 

Our panelists for this conversation are:

Brittany Lewis – Brittany Lewis is currently a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow at Bowdoin College in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program. As a specialist in Black feminist thought, theory, and activism, Professor Lewis centers contemporary Black women’s activist experiences as they resist the racialized legacies of housing segregation, redlining, and concentrated poverty.

Sarah Schindler – Sarah Schindler, Professor of Law at University of Maine Law School, is quickly earning a national reputation for her scholarship, which focuses on the intersection of sustainable development and land use law. Two of her recent articles, “Architectural Exclusion” (Yale Law Journal) and “Banning Lawns” (George Washington Law Review) were competitively selected for presentation at the Sabin Colloquium on Innovative Environmental Scholarship at Columbia Law School. Another, “Of Backyard Chickens and Front-yard Gardens: The Conflict Between Local Governments and Locavores” (Tulane Law Review), was selected to be reprinted in the Land Use and Environmental Law Review, an annual, peer-selected compendium of the ten best land use and environmental law articles of the year. She was also named as Pace Environmental Law Center’s Distinguished Young Scholar of 2013. Her articles are widely praised as creative and insightful additions to the fields of local government and land use law.

René Johnson – René Johnson is the Artistic Director of Theater Ensemble of Color, an organization dedicated to breaking down racial, ethnic, gender, age barriers for local non-white performing Artists and to spread racial justice by confronting white privilege, racial bias and stereotypes through performance art. She is originally from South Africa and has lived in Maine for 25 years.

The MC for 2016’s is Elise Pepple. Elise has worked for StoryCorps, been a radio host, and frequently talks to strangers. Elise moved to Portland in 2012 to attend the Salt Institute. She teaches storytelling at The Maine College of Art. In her spare time she hosts a live storytelling series called Hear Tell, is working on a public art project called Portland Brick, a project building public memory and is SPACE’s Volunteer Coordinator.

Give the gift of SPACE Membership this year! For a limited time, donate $50 and your gift recipient will get a full-year membership and a snail mail package of event passes and limited edition artist-made treasures.