On August 29th, close to 70 people gathered in UNC’s Wilson Library’s Pleasants Family Assembly room for the IAAR’s symposium, Voting Rights, Racial Justice, and Moral Mondays: Examining Civil Rights in the 21st Century, to launch the Institute for the new academic year and under its new director, Professor Karla Slocum.
Provost James W. Dean, Jr. opened the program by noting that the level of scholarly engagement and in-depth treatment of current topics like the topic headlined in the IAAR program are what Carolina is all about. He also remarked about the timeliness of the program given its occurrence so close to the 50th anniversary of the MOW. Slocum also offered opening remarks and underscored that the program reflects her vision that the IAAR will demonstrate the vitality of research about and for blacks as a means to address central issues and modes of research inquiry in the 21st century.
Three cogent, informative, and critically thought-provoking presentations by campus faculty followed. In his talk “Change and Resistance in Voting Rights Enforcement,” Dr. Kareem U. Crayton (UNC School of Law) placed the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Voting Rights Act in historic context and discussed its implications for North Carolina. He used survey and demographic data to offer a fuller context for understanding to merit of retaining voting rights protection policies.
In a presentation entitled “The Role of Race in Death Penalty Decision Making,” Professor Isaac Unah, (UNC Political Science) focused on the implications of the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, an act that allowed defendants to consider racial discrimination as a factor impacting their sentence to death row. Both Crayton and Unah demonstrated and argued that, despite a rolling back of policies to guarantee citizens’ access to voting rights or racial justice, the need still exists for these kinds of measures.
The final presentation by Dr. Kenneth (Andy) Andrews (UNC Sociology) put the recent Moral Monday protests in the context of the Civil Rights movement and social movements more generally, outlining strategies and dimensions of movements that affect their endurance and recognition.
The event was capped off by a lively discussion among the presenters and audience members who included graduate students, faculty, university staff and members of the North Carolina non-campus community.