“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.

Spring 2022

"Teaching Racial Democracy in a Latin American Studies Course” by Fernanda Righi, Lecturer of Spanish
Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.
View event here at scheduled time.

In the United States, Latin American Studies are interdisciplinary programs that integrate concepts and ideas from different fields in the social sciences and humanities. During the last decades, Afro-Latin American Studies have presented numerous and original perspectives to analyze and study the African heritage of the peoples in Latin America, going from analyzing the inequalities and their intervention in the processes of national formation (De la Fuente-Reid). 

In this presentation, Professor Righi will introduce her proposal for teaching Afro-Latin American studies in the Introduction to Latin America and Latino Studies (LALS 100) at RWU. More specifically, she will focus on the concept of “racial democracy” in Brazil as a concept that used to describe this nation. Although academics and activists no longer characterize any country or society as a “racial democracy,” this is a useful concept to introduce in the classroom, especially when discussing racial formation in Latin America. In class, students read and watch different materials (from academic books to documentaries) about the construction of racial relations in Brazil and Latin America and they are encouraged to think about the similarities and differences with the United States (indeed, racial democracy was an idea often used to compare these countries). In this presentation, Professor Righi will introduce this material, the activities, and the discussion she proposed in the LALS 100 course to debate and think on racial justice (and injustices) in the past and the present. Additionally, she will present some of the challenges she experienced when teaching this concept and some changes she plans to implement in the future. 

“(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.


Past Events: 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.
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.
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.