It was 2015 when Dr. Amrita Chakrabarti Myers first decided that Indiana University should do more to address the critical debates playing out in the country. In the wake of several police shootings of Black men and women, Myers, an associate professor of history and gender studies at IU Bloomington, had seen dozens of other universities hold protests, teach-ins, and other events discussing police brutality and racism in the United States. However, no large-scale conversations had been organized at IU. It was then, she said, that she decided to organize an event to spark critical conversations about the issues roiling the country--and their impact on the IU and Bloomington communities.
Today, Myers’ event has transformed into a recurring discussion that gathers the community in dialogue about critical issues in the community and country. Myers’ latest event, “Borders, Bans, and Babies: America's War on Immigrants,” will continue this trend with discussions of immigration, racism, and the history of anti-immigrant rhetoric in the United States. In addition to hearing from experts from the IU, Bloomington, and national communities, attendees will also have the opportunity to get involved at the event’s Justice Fair, where campus and community organizations will table to connect attendees with volunteering and activism opportunities.
“We don’t want students and community members to come to these events and become discouraged by what’s going on in the world,” Myers said. “We want them to become active members of their communities and the world.”
Myers’ work on the event is closely tied to the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA), which has supported the series since its founding in 2015. By offering financial support to help make the event possible, OVPDEMA recognizes the event’s wide-ranging impact on conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion, both at IU and in the Bloomington community.
“This is the third installment of Professor Myers’ event on the Bloomington campus, but each time I am still amazed at how powerful the experience is,” said James C. Wimbush, vice president for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, dean of The University Graduate School, and Johnson Chair for Diversity and Leadership. “By bringing together the community for critical dialogue and offering attendees a way to get involved at the Justice Fair, this event is truly transformative for all who attend.”
Held in IU’s Alumni Hall on March 27 from 6-10 p.m., “Borders, Bans, and Babies: America's War on Immigrants” will begin with a panel discussion that will engage the community in issues surrounding immigration. The panel, which includes experts on immigration from the IU, Bloomington, and national communities, will be structured to allow audience participation in the discussion. The dialogue will also be complemented with artistic performances from members of the IU and Bloomington communities. The panelists for this year’s event include:
- Ko Dokmai, a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at IU Bloomington, an international student from Thailand, and a board member of UndocuHoosiers Bloomington.
- Dr. Marianne Kemp, an associate professor in Central Eurasian Studies at IU Bloomington whose work focuses on Muslim women, veiling, and social change.
- Dr. Felipe Hinojosa, an author, activist, and associate professor of history at Texas A&M University. Hinojosa grew up in the border town of Brownsville, Texas, and his work focuses on Chicana/o and Latina/o histories, borderlands, religion, social movements, race, gender, and ethnicity.
- Dr. Eden Medina, associate professor of informatics and computing at IU Bloomington will moderate this year’s panel. Medina’s work focuses on the intersection of of technological innovation and political innovation, among other topics.
Following the panel discussion, which ends at 8 p.m., attendees will have the opportunity to visit the Justice Fair, which runs until 10 p.m. in the neighboring IMU Solarium. During the fair, over 60 different civic engagement and social justice organizations from IU and Bloomington will offer attendees information about their services and ways to get involved. In doing so, the Justice Fair will allow attendees to harness the energy of the discussion and channel it into work in the community that sparks positive change.
In organizing the event, Myers said that her greatest hope is for attendees to come with a spirit of openness, dialogue, and curiosity about the issues affecting the immigration debate in the United States. While the conversation may be difficult, Myers said it is critical that the campus and community engage with these issues, especially given IU’s role as a home for learning and exchange of ideas.
“If we’re not here to learn, to engage with one another, to talk about tough things, why are we here?” Myers said.