Historian Jeffrey Chang to discuss US resegregation at GVSU Fall Arts Celebration

By Theresa Mueller | 10/8/17 11:44pm

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GVL / Courtesy - GVNow Jeffrey Chang

Rather than avoid topics of race, inequality and segregation, author and historian Jeffrey Chang will center his lecture around the maturation of these realities in the U.S. during Grand Valley State University’s Fall Arts Celebration, where he will be featured as the distinguished academic lecturer.

Chang will be speaking Monday, Oct. 9, at 7:30 p.m. on the second floor of the L.V. Eberhard Center on the Pew Campus. He will be presenting his new book, “We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation.” 

Chang is the executive director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, and a well-versed advocate for equity and inclusivity.

“Chang is a vibrant public intellectual, engaging in conversations occurring in many communities across the nation," said Kimberly McKee, director of the Kutsche Office of Local History at GVSU and lecture coordinator, via email. "Exploring the idea of a diverse and inclusive society, Chang reveals the complexities and contradictions of today’s America."

It is primarily through writing that Chang reaches out to the community. He has written a number of books, including his most well-known, “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of Hip-Hop Generation.”  Additionally, Chang is a “cultural organizer.”

“I organize other people—artists, thinkers, designers, musicians, filmmakers and more—to use art, the humanities and culture to move us all toward justice and freedom,” he said via email. 

As the title of Chang’s new book suggests, he believes the U.S. is digressing by resegregating. As many people would like to avoid conversations of race, Chang aims to address the conversation in a way that enables individuals to acknowledge the threat of avoiding the rather polarizing topic. 

“Race is a topic people often prefer not to discuss," Chang said. "But this is a time in which race is being used to pit people against each other out of all proportion to the actual facts. I hope that what I have to say will help us to turn down the shouting and encourage people to listen and choose to act.” 

Chang's idea of the division in the U.S. is not meant to instill fear among anyone but rather spark progress. 

“We need to face the reality of what has happened, that we have forsaken our commitment to equity for all,” he said. “The good news is that history has shown that when we are up to the task, we do make things better. I want us to make the right choice, not from fear, but from empathy and resolve.”

McKee thinks Chang's lecture will serve as a "starting place" for a constructive conversation among students.

“Chang’s lecture offers a fruitful starting place to examine what it means to remain diverse and engage in intentional dialogue on topics of race and resegregation with one another,” she said. “For students interested in reflecting on how the nation moves forward after recent unrest, protests and tragedies from St. Louis to Charlottesville, Chang’s lecture provides an opportunity to consider what’s necessary for our communities to heal.

"His work offers a timely cultural and political exploration of the racial inequity and inequalities in the U.S. and what is required to establish an America that is thriving and equitable for all.”

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