June 1, 2022
This session addressed the place of civility in efforts to achieve social justice. Scholars, activists, and practitioners discussed whether current conceptions of civility are being used to hinder free speech or protest. They took on the question of where is the line in determining when an act is civil or not in confronting entrenched power structures? And they examined the power of civil disobedience to mobilize actors and move public opinion.
Speakers for this session included Larry Cohen, Board Chair of Our Revolution, Gaye Theresa Johnson, Associate Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies and African American Studies at University of California, Los Angeles, and Charlton McIlwain, Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement and Development and Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU. Julie Fernandes, Associate Director for Democracy of the Rockefeller Family Fund, served as the moderator.
Registration was required in order to receive the Zoom log-in details for the webinar. This program was open to everyone, and was recorded.
Larry Cohen, Board Chair of Our Revolution
Larry Cohen served as president of the 600,000 member Communications Workers of America from 2005-2015, and spent nearly all of his adult life as a member, organizer, and officer of the union. He was also the founding chair of Jobs with Justice, an organization that brings labor, community, student, and faith voices together at the national and local levels to win improvements in people’s lives and shape the public discourse on workers’ rights and the economy. He was the founding chair of the Democracy Initiative, a coalition of more than 50 membership organizations working together on securing voting rights and removing big money from politics. He is a member of the Democratic National Committee, and was appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders as vice chair of the Unity Reform Commission. On August 25, 2018, DNC members approved major reform proposals related to the 2020 presidential nominating process and national and state party transparency and democracy. He currently chairs the board of Our Revolution, the successor organization to Bernie 2016.
Gaye Theresa Johnson, Associate Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies and African American Studies at University of California, Los Angeles
Gaye Theresa Johnson writes and teaches on race and racism, cultural history, spatial politics, and political economy. Her first book, Spaces of Conflict, Sounds of Solidarity: Music, Race, and Spatial Entitlement in Los Angeles (University of California Press, 2013) is a history of civil rights and spatial struggles among Black and Brown freedom seekers and cultural workers in LA. Johnson’s current work includes an edited volume on The Futures of Black Radicalism, co-edited with Alex Lubin, and a single-authored book currently titled, These Walls Will Fall: Protest at the Intersection of Immigrant Detention and Mass Incarceration. In it, she demonstrates how visual and aural protest art constitute one of the most significant discourses of resistance to twentieth and 21st century anti-immigrant and pro-carceral policy and practices, revealing how expressive cultures enact an alternative narrative history about migration, race, and power. Johnson has also contributed journal articles and book chapters to historical, cultural studies, and ethnic studies volumes. She has been a visiting researcher at Stanford University’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, as well as at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is active with the Los Angeles Community Action Network’s struggle for housing and civil rights on LA’s skid row and is the 2013 recipient of the Freedom Now! Award for her efforts. She is a member of the board of directors for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and an advisory board member for the Rosenberg Fund for Children.
Julie Fernandes, Associate Director for Democracy, Rockefeller Family Fund
Julie Fernandes is the Associate Director for Democracy of the Rockefeller Family Fund. Prior to joining the Fund, Julie Fernandes served as Advocacy Director for Voting Rights and Democracy at the Open Society Foundations, as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in the Obama administration, and as Special Assistant for Domestic Policy to President Bill Clinton. From 2002 to 2008, she was Senior Counsel at the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights where, among other things, she led the coalition’s successful campaign to reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of Analyst Institute, the Ad Council, the Media Democracy Action Fund, and the New American Majority Fund at the Democracy Alliance. She also sits on the Board of Directors of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Georgetown Day School. She received both her J.D. and A.B. degrees from the University of Chicago and clerked for the Honorable Diane P. Wood on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Charlton McIlwain, Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement and Development and Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University
Charlton McIlwain is Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement and Development and Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. His scholarly work focuses on the intersections of race, digital media, and racial justice activism. He is the founder of the Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies and the author of the book Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter (Oxford University Press, 2019). He also co-authored the award-winning book, Race Appeal: How Political Candidates Invoke Race In U.S. Political Campaigns (Temple University Press, 2012). As Vice Provost, he advances NYU’s academic excellence by supporting faculty recruitment, retention, and career advancement. He leads NYU's Center for Faculty Advancement, which provides programming, resources, and special recognitions and awards that promote faculty research, teaching, mentorship, community engagement, and academic leadership development for NYU faculty. He oversees the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology, which brings together NYU’s faculty experts to collaborate with each other and with partners in the public and private sectors on the ethical creation, use, and governance of technology in society. He received his Ph.D. in Communication and a Master's of Human Relations, both from the University of Oklahoma, and a B.A. in Family Psychology from Oklahoma Baptist University.