“Hidden Truths: Stories of Race and Place” Series Continues for 2021-22

Interdisciplinary series examines racial justice issues in Indigenous, Black and communities of color locally and globally, stemming from colonization, civil rights struggles, war, the slave trade, immigration and environmental politics

Hidden Truths graphic

BRISTOL, R.I. – Roger Williams University continues its year-long series, “Hidden Truths: Stories of Race and Place,” with a new schedule of events throughout the year. The series features faculty and alumni presenting untold stories about our local and global histories that complicate received notions and optics, with an emphasis on Indigenous questions, the slave trade, immigration, and the way these issues continue to impact our contemporary realities and disparities today.

The year-long series aims to engage the campus community in a deeper understanding and informed dialogue around racial justice and equity issues within local and global histories. The series is organized by the Education, Scholarship and Service committee, a group of faculty and staff working through RWU’s Equity Action Plan to develop inclusive educational initiatives around social and racial justice issues. It is sponsored by the Office of the President and the Provost’s Office.

All lectures will take place virtually and will be available for later viewing on RWU’s YouTube channel, making the presentations modular and accessible to work into courses. All members of the campus community and the general public are welcome to attend these virtual conversations.

Fall 2021

“An Uncomfortable Truth: How Law is Used as a Weapon To Oppress and Subjugate The Indigenous Peoples of New England” byJames Diamond, Visiting Professor of Law 
Monday, Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
View event here at scheduled time.
From the period of first contact in the early 17th century to the modern times law has been the primary tool to eliminate, erase, oppress and subjugate the Indigenous Peoples of New England. Warfare became unnecessary as use of the law, instead, was far more efficient and palatable.

“Europeans in India: A Story of Race and Empire” by Rupayan Gupta, Professor of Economics
Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.
View event here at scheduled time.

The arrival of Vasco Da Gama in India in 1498 began an era of European colonization in India which lasted until 1947, when India gained independence from Britain. The Portuguese and English, along with other colonial powers, participated in this colonial enterprise. In fact, the final footprint of colonization was removed from the Indian sub-continent only when the Portuguese were expelled from Goa in 1961. 

In his talk, Professor Gupta demonstrates, through a narration of selected stories and events from a span around four centuries, that the colonial enterprise was also one that involved racism. He discusses that while the argument that colonialism was a method to gain economic advantage and market access though force and subjugation is true, the complete nature of colonialism in India might not be fully understood without the racist underpinnings that accompanied it. He will also briefly discuss the lingering effect of this racism on the social, cultural, and economic fabric of the modern Indian sub-continent.

 Spring 2022

“Black Women Characters in Brazilian Literature” by Fernanda Righi, Lecturer of Spanish
Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.
View event here at scheduled time.

In this talk, Fernanda Righi will discuss the figure of women workers in fictions from the 1930s, and how these fictions reflected the charged debates surrounding women’ identity and feminist activism in São Paulo, Brazil. More specifically, Righi will use the novel “Parque Industrial” (Industrial Park) by Patrícia Galvão as a starting point to discuss racial differences during this time period. Despite denouncing racial discrimination in the workplace and emphasizing the importance of women organization, Galvão introduced an ambivalent portrayal of black women workers. Written during the emergence of ideas of racial democracy in Brazil, Galvão condemns racism and the sexual exploitation of black women. However, she presents a stereotypical image of Black women, connected to colonial literature and early 20th century notions of “scientific” racism. 

Considering the goal of the Hidden Truths series of surfacing truths, Righi plans to present about how fiction written by women like Galvão highlighted topics such as racial discrimination, which were largely ignored by the part of the feminist movement that focused on civil rights (specifically, women suffrage). Additionally, the discussion on the complexities of feminism in the past allows a comment on the current feminist movement in Brazil. 

“(Just)ice for Emmett” by Aaron Allen, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies
Tuesday, March 8 at 7 p.m.
View event here at scheduled time.
In his talk, Aaron Allen, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, thinks beyond “place” in strictly geographic terms to examine Emmett Till’s place both within history and our collective memory. He pays considerable attention to how historical vacancies in Emmett’s story affects present-day racial disparities. The conversation hopes to map out an alternative cartography of Emmett in order to explore the relationship between racial justice, memory, and hidden truths.

“Refugee Resettlement, Resilience, & Resistance: Southeast Asians Against State Violence” by Keith Catone, Executive Director of CYCLE, with Chanda Womack, of ARISE, and Sarath Suong, of Southeast Asian Freedom Network 
Thursday, April 28 at 7 p.m.
View event here at scheduled time.
Almost fifty years ago, Southeast Asians experienced massive upheaval and violence shaped by US militarism in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. As a result of the War in Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, and the mass carpet bombing of Laos, over 1.4 million Southeast Asian refugees were brought to the US as part of the largest refugee resettlement program in US history. The Refugee Resettlement Program promised to resettle and stabilize our communities, but instead it abandoned them. Southeast Asians resettled in under-resourced and over-policed neighborhoods in New England cities like Providence, Rhode Island and Lowell, Massachusetts. Despite these socio-economic challenges, Southeast Asians built vibrant communities and powerful organizations.

Locally, the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) was founded to amplify and elevate the educational needs of Southeast Asian students and other students of color through a Black Liberation lens. ARISE equips young people with the political education and organizing tools to navigate and challenge the current systems that do not serve them as whole people. 

Nationally, the Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) was formed in 2001 to create a united front against the deportation of Cambodian American refugees. After two decades, SEAFN has evolved into a national movement family of local organizations dedicated to the mass mobilization of Southeast Asian communities towards abolition.

Together, these organizations work to expose the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline and other hidden truths about the realities of what it means to be Southeast Asian in a world where the impact of oppressive state power, colonialism, and social persecution give shape to the narratives we are told. Through a moderated discussion, Chanda Womack and Sarath Suong will lift up stories of Southeast Asian refugee resettlement, resilience, and resistance.