Interdisciplinary collaboration launches ‘Freedom Interrupted’ to address police violence

By: Linda B. Glaser,  A&S Communications
September 6, 2016

Police shootings of unarmed black people this past year have raised the topic of violence and policing to a national level. But other communities, like Indigenous and trans peoples and those with disabilities, also suffer from high rates of police violence. “Freedom Interrupted: Race, Gender, Nation and Policing,” is a campus-wide, year-long collaboration that will include symbolic, artistic and scholarly events, to create spaces for ongoing discussions of race and policing as well as raise awareness about victims of police violence who have not received much national attention. 

The interdisciplinary effort includes the Africana Studies and Research Center and the American Studies, Asian American Studies, Feminist Gender, and Sexuality Studies (FGSS), Latina/o Studies (LSP) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies (LGBT) Programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program (AIISP) in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. As the organizers note, this is the first time all these studies programs have collaborated on a series like this; they hope it will be a model for the future.  In addition, the Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability in the ILR School and faculty participating in the Crime, Prisons, Education and Justice minor are partnering in the collaboration.

Fists of different colors upraised in protest

“The ‘Freedom Interrupted’ events are meant to bring together various parts of our campus to raise awareness of the inequities and abuses facing so many in our country, while at the same time building up a ‘think tank’ to forge ideas and tools with which to tackle and eventually bring about important changes in society,” explains Hector Velez, interim director of LSP.

Adds Noliwe Rooks, interim chair and associate professor of Africana studies. “’Freedom Interrupted’ is in no way intended to de-center Black Lives Matter or the high-profile murders we’ve seen. Such discussions are vitally important. But there is little on campus or nationally saying that it’s not just Black men who are killed, and when you add in people who have not been part of this conversation, from these other communities, the numbers of victims are staggering. We have to talk about what is going on. If we’re not being honest about the bigger picture we can’t fix it.”

As Carol Warrior, assistant professor of English and AIIP faculty member points out, Indigenous Peoples as a demographic suffer the highest rates of lethal violence at the hands of law enforcement. “AIIP’s involvement in the Freedom Interrupted project will highlight settler-colonialism’s historically-rooted and continued role in motivating excessive police violence against groups that law enforcement considers expendable in some way, or in need of control,” she says.

“Freedom Interrupted” will launch with a Roundtable Discussion on Wed., Sept. 14, 3-5 pm in Rhodes • Rawlings Auditorium, Klarman Hall; the chairs and directors of the participating departments and programs in “Freedom Interrupted” will discuss police violence and what can be done about it. 

“The pieces we bring to this conversation are so important: gender, race, ethnicity, geography,” says Rooks. “We wanted to reproduce in a public forum what we’ve been discussing together and what we all bring to the conversation.”

Events in the Freedom Interrupted series include:

Sept. 14, 3-5 pm, Roundtable Discussion: the chairs and directors of the participating departments and programs in “Freedom Interrupted” will discuss police violence and what can be done about it. Rhodes • Rawlings Auditorium, Klarman Hall

Oct. 4, 4:30-6 pm, Discussion with Elaine Brown, former chair of the Black Panther Party, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Africana Research and Study Center multipurpose room.

Oct. 17, Launch of "Witness Project/We See You,” a multi-site installation of records, responses and representations of police violence. The art installations will include an exhibit of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos associated with Black Lives Matter at the Africana Studies and Research Center; an installation of Dignidad Rebelde’s downloadable posters, which are disseminated to communities facing violence against them by state forces, at the Latina/o Studies Center; as well as installations at other spaces of the “Freedom Interrupted” collaborative partners as well as the Department of Performing and Media Arts.

November 9 and 10, Latina/o studies and the Spanish-language theatre Teatrotaller will collaborate with Cultura Ithaca and the Civic Ensemble to perform a staged reading of "After Orlando" at locations on campus and in downtown Ithaca. 

Additional events in the fall and spring, including an American Studies colloquia series, will be announced on a forthcoming website.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle

Elaine Brown