Claiming Freedom Symposium

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About the Event

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Venues, Driving and Parking

On February 4-5 and February 19, Cal State L.A. will host the Claiming Freedom symposium commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer, Freedom Schools, the Free Speech Movement, Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution. Activists, poets, writers, musicians, and film artists will join to discuss and celebrate this anniversary.

This event is co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Letters, Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, Department of English, Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, Department of Pan-African Studies, Statement Magazine, Statement Unbound Literary Society, the Charter College of Education, CSULA Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), and Poets and Writers, Inc. through a grant received from the James Irvine Foundation. All events are free and open to the public with refreshments served.

Event Schedule

Wednesday, February 4, Golden Eagle Ballroom

3:00pm-6:00pm: Introductory Films

"Freedom Summer" (2014), Stanley Nelson Jr., Producer/Director

"Mendez vs. Westminster: For All the Children/Para Todos Los Niños (2002), Sandra Robbie, Producer/Director

"Sylvia Mendez v. Westminster" (2011), Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY

7:00pm: Panel Discussion
featuring Sylvia Mendez , Ericka Huggins, David Crittendon, Robert Land, Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Melina Abdullah, and Tomás Benítez, moderated by Lauri Ramey.

Thursday, February 5, Golden Eagle Ballroom

9:30am-4:45pm: Teach-In, an informal series of lectures and round table discussions

9:30am-10:30am: Robert Land and Michael Soldatenko

10:30am-11:30am: Lauri Ramey and Jean-Philippe Marcoux

11:30am-11:45am: Break

11:45am-12:45pm: David Crittendon and Lewis Kisasi

12:45pm-1:45pm: Malcolm Boyd and Andrew Thomas

1:45pm-2:30pm: Lunch

2:30pm-3:30pm: Melina Abdullah (Session located in the Los Angeles Room, USU)

3:45pm-4:45pm: Ericka Huggins

6:30pm-10pm: Celebration of the Poetry and Music of Freedom (Music Hall, Music Building)

"Quilting," the poetry of Countee Cullen set to music, composed by pianist Andre Myers and sung by counter-tenor Darryl Taylor

Poetry reading by Ericka Huggins and Gloria Enedina Alvarez, accompanied by Cal State L.A.'s student jazz musicians directed by Dr. James Ford

Poetry reading with poetry created for the event read by Cal State L.A.'s  Poetry Seminar students, and creative writing students from Schurr High School, advised by Betty Harbison. 

Thursday, February 19, 6:30pm-9:45pm, Alhambra Room, University Student Union

Film Screening and Book Launch: A HIgher Form of Politics by Sophie Rachmuhl

Panel discussion with Marisela Norte, one of the ten poets featured in the book and film, and George Drury Smith, founder of the Beyond Baroque Literary Center and editor of Beyond Baroque Magazine, where  work by the featured writers was showcased.

Teach-in Descriptions (for Thursday, February 5)

9:30am-10:30am: Robert Land and Michael Soldatenko, "The Struggle for Educational Equity since Freedom Summer, 1964: Promises Kept and Dreams Deferred"


10:30am-11:30am: Jean-Philippe Marcoux and Lauri Ramey, "Freedom in Jazz and African American Poetry"

This Teach-In will discuss the historical connections between African American poetry and music. Why do African American poets turn to jazz, and how do they transcribe jazz into poetic material? Our answer is that jazz is Black History ritualized and performed, and jazz performance is storytelling. Because jazz resists dialectics and categorizations, we will discuss its importance in historicizing "freedom" in music and verse.

11:45am-12:45pm: David Crittendon, "Operation Bootstrap/Shindana Toys: The Dream Made Real"

Echoes of the Southern Movement took root in South Central Los Angeles, 1965.  Black activists Lou Smith and Robert Hall proposed "Learn, Baby, Learn" as an antidote to the Watts Riots and "Burn, Baby, Burn." Their work, including the creation of Shindana Toys, transformed a former riot zone into a locus of community pride, economic development and social equity.

12:45pm-1:45pm: Malcolm Boyd and Andrew Thomas, "Personal Reflections from the Trenches of the Freedom Movement"

Freedom Rider, civil rights and anti-war activist Malcolm Boyd has been called a "disturber of the peace" for his outspoken work for social justice. Author of more than 30 bestselling books, Boyd brings an eclectic perspective to moral engagement in the cause for peace and justice.

Multi-award winning producer of film and television programs focused on social activism, Thomas will illustrate Malcolm Boyd's remarks with scenes from a new documentary on Boyd's life now in production.

2:30pm-3:30pm: Melina Abdullah, "Black Lives Matter!" (session located in the Los Angeles Room, University Student Union)

Hands up! Don¹t shoot! Black lives matter! From Florida to Ferguson to Los Angeles...and throughout the world, Black lives do matter. Join the Pan-African Studies Department and the Pan African Student Resource Center
as we discuss such topics as police and state-sanctioned violence, the devaluation of Black life, and shifts that need to happen in order to bring about change. #BlackLivesMatter #BlackTalk

3:45pm-4:45pm: Ericka Huggins, "Movement Forward"

We can not teach what we have not learned. We have learned that the history of the Human Rights movement is filled with the courage and consistency of many people, not only the "leaders".

We must know and believe that we are all leaders. In this time in our global and national histories, our courage and constancy,our resilience and wisdom, is crucial.

How do we, younger and older, develop and sustain a forward movement molded by love for humanity, propelled by a deep sense of justice?

Venues, Driving and Parking


The Golden Eagle Ballroom for all programming on 2/4, and all Teach-In sessions on 2/5, except Melina Abdullah's 1:30-2:30 session, which is in the Los Angeles Room in the University Students' Union.

The 6:30 pm Celebration of Music and Poetry (2/5) is in the Music Hall in the Music Building complex. (Open the link below for the campus map). 

Driving and Parking

Take the San Bernadino Freeway (Interstate 10). 

Exit Eastern Avenue.  (A Right turn if approaching from the East.  A Left turn if approaching from the West).

Drive North onto the university campus.  Stop at the Welcome Kiosk. Continue straight ahead on Paseo Rancho Castilla.

At third stop sign, turn Right on Circle Drive, then Left into Parking Lot C.

The Welcome kiosk attendant will direct disabled visitors to the closest reserved spaces. 

All vehicles must have a parking ticket which can be purchased from the yellow vending machines. Cash and credit cards are accepted.

Follow signs directing you toward the Golden Eagle Ballroom and Music Hall.

Campus Map 

Key to venues listed on the map linked below:

1A - Music Hall

5 - Student Union

6 - Golden Eagle Ballroom



Melina Abdullah picture

Melina Abdullah
Melina Abdullah is Professor and Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Abdullah earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in Political Science and her B.A. from Howard University in African-American Studies and is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, with subjects ranging from political coalition building to womanist mothering.

Gloria Enedina Alvarez

Gloria Enedina Alvarez
Gloria Enedina Alvarez, Chicana poet/intermedia artist, has been a writer in residence at East L.A. College, the Los Angeles County Art Museum and faculty at U.C. Berkeley, Cal State L.A. and Cal Arts.  She has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles, and Poets & Writers, Inc.

Tomas Benitez picture

Tomás Benítez
Tomás  Benítez, Chairman of the Board of Latino Arts Network,  has been an advocate of Chicano/Latino arts and culture for 35 years, and has served as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institute, the President’s Council for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the University of Notre Dame, USC, UCLA, the Mexican Fine Art Center Museum in Chicago, and the California Arts Council and has lectured internationally on Chicano art and culture. 

Malcolm Boyd picture

Malcolm Boyd
Malcolm Boyd, author of Are You Running With Me Jesus,?, Take Off the Masks and many other books re race and prayer, is a Gay Elder, Episcopal priest, 1961 Freedom Rider, antiwar activist, and 3-Term President of PEN Center USA. He advocates prayer as an essential component of activism.

David Crittendon picture

David Crittendon
David Crittendon, M.A. Interdisplinary Studies from Cal State Los Angeles, is a pianist, singer, educator and writer.  He is a Freedom Summer alumnus, an experience that continues to inform his life and art.

picture of Erica Huggins

Ericka Huggins
Ericka Huggins is an educator, former Black Panther Party member, political prisoner, human rights activist and poet. For 35 years Ericka has lectured in the United States, and internationally on human rights, Restorative Justice and, the role of spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting social change. She is currently a professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Laney, Merritt and Berkeley City Colleges.

Lewis Kisasi picture

Lewis Kisasi
Lewis Kisasi is a retired California State Employment worker specializing in assisting released offenders.  He was formerly the director of Operation Bootstrap's Kujinga Talent Productions and close associate of co-founders Lou Smith and Robert Hall.  A Black History Instructor with that organization, he provides invaluable insight into the landmark organization's innovations and legacy.

Robert Land picture

Robert Land
Robert Land, Ph.D., Professor of Education Cal State LA, Outstanding Professor 2006, former department Chair. Richard Meade Award for Outstanding Research in English Education 2008 for his efforts to address the literacy needs of underserved students.

Jean-Philippe Marcoux picture

Jean-Philippe Marcoux
Dr. Jean-Philippe Marcoux is a Associate Professor of American Literature at Université Laval in Québec, Canada. He is the author of the monograph, Jazz Griots: Music as History in the 1960s African American Poem published by Lexington Books in 2012. 

Sylvia Mendez picture

Sylvia Mendez
Sylvia Mendez,  Civil rights icon, subject of the pioneering law suit that desegregated California schools and was template for Brown v Board of Education. She was awarded the National Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2010.

Andre Myers

Andre Myers
Andre Myers is an artist and instructor of piano, composition and theory based in California's Inland Empire. He serves on the faculty at the Academy of Universal Arts & Music in Yucaipa, and received his B.Mus. in composition from the Eastman School of Music, and his M.Mus. and A.Mus.D. in composition from the University of Michigan.

Marisela Norte picture

Marisela Norte
(photo by Vincent M. Puga)
Author of poetry and fiction, Marisela Norte's work was featured on MTA TV's Out the Window project and selected among the best transit poems in the world by The Atlantic Monthly.

Sophie Rachmuhl picture

Sophie Rachmuhl
Sophie Rachmuhl is an American Studies Associate Professor and the Applied Languages Department Chair at Bordeaux University–Montaigne in France. Her recently published book, A Higher Form of Politics, The Rise of a Poetry Scene, Los Angeles, 1950-1990 (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions and Beyond Baroque Foundation, Los Angeles, 2015) details the history of the Los Angeles poetry scene over a span of 40 years.

Lauri Ramey picture

Lauri Ramey
Lauri Ramey (PhD, The University of Chicago) specializes in poetry and in the literatures and cultures of the Africa diaspora, especially African American and "Black" British. Her most recent books are Slave Songs and the Birth of African American Poetry, The Heritage Series of Black Poetry, 1962-1975, and What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America, with Aldon Lynn Nielsen. She is founding Director of the Center for Contemporary Poetry and Poetics and Professor of English at Cal State L.A.

George Drury Smith picture

George Drury Smith
(photo by Kathryn Jacobi)
George Drury Smith is the founder of Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center in Venice, California and former editor and chief financial officer of The Argonaut newspaper.  He is a multi-linguist and author of the experimental novel, The slant hug o' time.

Michael Soldatenko picture

Michael Soldatenko
Michael Soldatenko received his Ph.D. from UCLA, and is the current chair of the Chicano Studies Department at CSULA. His articles have appeared in Latin American Perspectives, Latino Studies Journal, and Ethnic Studies Review and he is the author of Chicano Studies: The Genesis of a Discipline 1967-1982.

Darryl Taylor picture

Darryl Taylor
A native of Detroit, Michigan, Darryl Taylor holds degrees from the University of Southern California and the University of Michigan. His is an international career highlighted by performances of art song, opera and oratorio.  His repertoire extends from Bach to Britten, and beyond. Founder of the African American Art Song Alliance, Taylor is much sought after as a lecturer on African-American Art Song.

Andrew Thomas (with Malcolm Boyd)

Andrew Thomas (with Malcolm Boyd)
Andrew Thomas, award-winning and Emmy-nominated filmmaker has created original productions for Disney, Discover Channel, A&E and History Channel.  His film,"The Anatomy of Vince Guraldi" recceived five Best Documentary Awards, featured at Monterey Jazz Festival, premiered by the Library of Congress.