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Community Read continues in January

Posted 01/06/15

Community ReadFitchburg State University continues its year-long Community Read of legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow with a screening of the classic film “In the Heat of the Night” (1967) on Thursday, Jan. 15 at 4 p.m. at the Fitchburg Public Library, 610 Main St. Admission is free.

The acclaimed film tells the story of an African-American police detective (played by Sidney Poitier) who is asked to investigate a murder in a racially hostile southern town. The film features an Oscar-winning performance by Rod Steiger. Professor David Weiss will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterward.

The New Jim Crow challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. Alexander argues instead that racial caste in America has not been ended, just redesigned. The book explores the concept that the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, relegating millions to a permanent second-class status.

Throughout the Community Read, Fitchburg State faculty and staff will join with experts and artists from this region and beyond to explore the issues raised in the book. The public is invited to add their voices to the conversation as the university seeks to create community through communication. The series is sponsored by the Carl T. Witherell ’32 fund.

Also in January, the art exhibit Cell Block Visions and the Inside/Outside Envelope Project will be held in the Hammond Hall Art Gallery in Hammond Hall, 160 Pearl St., from Wednesday, Jan. 21 through Wednesday, Feb. 18. Presented by art educator Phyllis Kornfeld, Cell Block Visions is a lively collection of inmate artwork created behind bars from county jail to death row. This is a look at the alternative art world flourishing in today’s American prisons. Inmates, having no previous training, turn to art for a sense of self-respect and a way to find peace. The Inside/Outside Envelope Project is a collection of works created by prison inmates and sent to loved ones. Inmates from around the country have donated their envelope art to benefit the Read Alliance, which serves at-risk kindergarten and first-graders by recruiting and training teens to provide one-to-one tutoring in reading. Kornfeld will discuss the projects and her career in prison art education on Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 3:30 p.m. in the art gallery.

The series continues on a lighter note with a performance by comedian W. Kamau Bell on Thursday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. in the Falcon Hub in Hammond Hall. Just like skinny jeans, superhero movies and celebrity weight loss, racism continues to make a comeback. Bell is here to make (non)sense of all of it all. The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour is a hilarious exploration of the current state of America’s racism, combined with a little (unknown) history, a little PowerPoint and a whole bunch of Kamau. The Curve is a seamless mix of stand-up comedy, video and audio clips, personal stories and solo theatrical performance. One part manifesto, one part diatribe and several parts funny, this evening is sure to provide laughs and provoke thought. The show is for audiences 21 and over. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, Fitchburg State alumni and free for Fitchburg State students and can be purchased at the Weston Box Office, 333 North St., which is open Thursday and Friday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tickets can also be ordered online by visiting fitchburgstate.edu/centerstage.

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