Historical Memory, Racial Violence, and Public Art: Chicago-Style

Solicited by Max Krochmal

Thursday, April 15, 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: African American; Local and Community History; Public History and Memory


The United States continues to grapple with the effects of 400-plus years of slavery and racism. Growing numbers of activists across the nation are demanding that history be reconsidered to center racism and racial violence by combining the powerful tools of art and history. Our panel consists of activists, poets, scholars, and teachers working to enhance historical memory, particularly through art, to promote racial justice and combat violence in Chicago and beyond. Topics include commemorating the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, honoring the life of Ida B. Wells, and repairing the effects of racist police torture and violence.

Session Participants

Chair and Panelist: Peter Cole, Western Illinois University
Peter Cole is a professor of history at Western Illinois University in Macomb and a Research Associate in the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cole is the author of the award-winning Dockworker Power: Race and Activism in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area (University of Illinois Press, 2018) and Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia (University of Illinois Press, 2007). He is the founder and co-director of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19).

Panelist: Kofi Ademola, Good Kids/Mad City
Good Kids/Mad City is an anti-gun violence group entirely led by black and brown youth, with its Chicago chapter rooted in the city’s South and West Sides. As in many other cities, black and brown communities in Chicago disproportionately bear the cost of the city’s high rates of gun violence; it is not uncommon for neighborhoods like Englewood, North Lawndale, and Austin, three such areas on the South and West sides, for the murder rate to be five to ten times higher than other, whiter parts of the city. Rather than do nothing, youth in these neighborhoods promote policies, at the city and national level, to attack the underlying causes of violence. Chicago’s GKMC was a major force in the city to protest the city’s plan to spend $95 million on a new police academy, money they believe could be better invested to heal communities instead of further policing them. GKMC also created several events connecting the history of racial violence to contemporary violence on 27 July 2019, the centennial of the murder of a black teenager whose death sparked the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. While GKMC has no official leaders, Kofi Ademola, who has worked with Black Lives Matter Chicago, serves as a mentor for the Chicago branch.

Panelist: Franklin Cosey-Gay, Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention, University of Chicago
Franklin Cosey-Gay, PhD, MPH, is the project director of the Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention (CCYVP), Social Service Administration, University of Chicago School and the co-director of the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19). He has 20 years of experience identifying the nature and causes of violence, testing and implementing violence prevention programs, and partnering with community stakeholders to support a comprehensive and coordinated response to the root causes of violence. Cosey-Gay’s career emphasizes the promotion of prevention science, building community capacity for high-quality implementation and evaluation of local and tested and effective programs and a healing centered approach that understands the importance of history, culture, faith, civic engagement, and trauma.

Panelist: Hakim Dough, Art of Culture Inc.
The Honorable Hakim Dough is a conceptual artist who utilizes music, fashion, print, and film to advance humanity, bridge communities and communicate divine messages with love. A philosopher and scholar at heart, his life is performance art. When not recording, performing, or teaching music, he is the executive director of Art of Culture Inc (formerly Donda's House). In the summer of 2019, he performed with fellow poet Mashaun Success to tour many cities across North America, seeking to raise consciousness about the Red Summer of 1919. They also performed at Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s formal program on the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.

Panelist: Michelle Duster, Columbia College Chicago
Michelle Duster is a public history advocate and writer who focuses on the contributions of African Americans and women in particular. Over the course of her career she organized a documentary film festival, produced PBS documentary films, and written numerous articles and book chapters. She had advocated nationally for street names, markers, murals, and monuments to honor her paternal great-grandmother Ida B. Wells and several other historic figures. Among current projects is a pop culture book titled Ida B. The Queen which will be released in 2021 by Atria-Simon & Schuster.

Panelist: Alice Kim, Pozen Family Center for Human Rights, University of Chicago
Alice Kim is the Director of Human Rights Practice. She directs the Human Rights Lab and teaches courses on contemporary issues in human rights practice at the University of Chicago’s Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. Among many other accomplishments, Kim also is a cofounder of the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM), the group that initiated historic reparations legislation passed by the Chicago City Council in 2015 for survivors tortured by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge’s torture ring. Kim is coeditor of The Long Term: Resisting Life Sentences, Working Toward Freedom (with Erica Meiners, Audrey Petty, Jill Petty, Beth Richie, and Sarah Ross; Haymarket Books, 2018). She was a 2016 Soros Justice Fellow and is coauthoring a book about the Chicago police torture cases (with Joey Mogul, Beacon Press).