Virtual Reading Groups & James Forman Jr.'s CLP
The seeds for some of Furman's conversations about diversity and inclusion on campus were planted last summer in virtual reading groups.
Forman Jr.’s CLP serves as the beginning of a campus-wide and administration endorsed movement towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community, as outlined by our updated history and Strategic Diversity Plan.
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This Spring, Furman is having a serious conversation about diversity and inclusion on campus. From events celebrating Black History Month, to a three-part American Enterprise Institute lecture series on race and politics and Furman Justice Forum’s upcoming “Justice Month” in March, students are being presented with several opportunities to engage in important discussions about identity, race, and justice.
The seeds for some of these conversations were planted last summer in virtual reading groups developed to facilitate discussion in a critical and collaborative setting. Two groups, organized by the Office of Spiritual Life, featured separate student and faculty/staff cohorts reading the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Advertised as spaces for “white people to explore these concepts in order to become more productive members of interracial conversations and actions on race,” the Office of Spiritual Life sought to “limit the groups to participants identifying as white,” according to one email about the groups.
Another group, organized by the Furman Justice Forum (FJF) and composed of Furman students and faculty from all racial backgrounds, chose to read James Forman Jr.’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America. Forman is the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School, and his interests include “schools, prisons, and police,” according to the event description for his CLP lecture on Feb. 8. Forman’s book aims to tell the history of mass incarceration in America and “create a common understanding of the injustice in the criminal justice system among all individuals.”
In an email invitation sent in May, FJF President Asha Marie articulated a simple goal for the group: “to build community and start some conversations about justice.” Marie explained that “the book looked at mass incarceration from a different perspective than I think a lot of scholars have.” Marie expressed her interest in Forman’s emphasis on “action” and his careful examination of “intentions versus actual impact.” Dr. Jenna Storey, a Politics and International Affairs professor and faculty participant in the FJF reading group, credited Marie with “setting the tone for a discussion that was challenging, thoughtful, and respectful of sincere questions about the matter at hand.”
This week, those conversations about justice will continue and some of the sincere questions posed in the summer’s reading groups might receive clearer answers, as James Forman Jr. is coming to campus virtually to discuss his book with students on Monday. These reading groups and upcoming CLPs are a reflection of the University’s dedication to fostering its mission and values and help mark the beginning of an administration-endorsed movement towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community, as emphasized by Furman’s updated history and Strategic Diversity Plan.
“Locking Up Our Own” is available to the Furman community over Zoom this afternoon at 5:00 P.M. Students can register for this CLP event here.