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Democracy & Debate Theme Semester Events Series

The University of Michigan’s Democracy & Debate Theme Semester events provide an opportunity for learning and engagement across multiple platforms. The theme semester events seek to explore broadly three areas: free speech and exchange of ideas, what it means to be a member of a democratic society, and democratic engagement from a global perspective. These events and activities provide a forum for exploration and discussion of a range of issues at play during the 2020 election season, from structural racism to public health and inequality, immigration and climate change, voting rights, voting security, free speech, and mass incarceration.

Our collective goal is to provide unique opportunities for learning about the multifaceted social elements that constitute a democractic society and for engaging in that learning as an active member of our community. Through these activities, we seek to establish habits of active and informed democratic engagement as we continue to grapple with the multiple challenges that confront our nation and our world. Our list of events continues to grow, so we encourage you to check back frequently!

Oct 26, 2020 10:00 AMOnline

The virtual DEI Summit provides an opportunity for the University to highlight the progress we’ve made over the previous year, the changes we’re experiencing across campus, and the opportunities of continued engagement with our community.

This year’s theme, Arts+Social Change: Building an Anti-Racist World through the Arts, provides a time and space for the campus community to come together to demonstrate a collective commitment to anti-racism that this moment in our history compels. During the fall term Democracy & Debate theme semester, the DEI Summit will focus on the arts as a vehicle for social change and provides an opportunity for curricular integration and connection. Both the theme semester and the Summit confirm our civic engagement values and demonstrate the power of each voice – both at the ballot box and through creative expression.

Oct 26, 2020 4:00 PMZoom

What’s on your playlist? How does music change us and the world around us? In the last five decades, popular music has played a prominent role in social change, protest, and the demand for equality for all. From Jimi Hendrix “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, Marvin Gaye’s seminal “What’s Going On,” Bruce Springstein’s “Born in the USA,” and Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” artists for years have used music to shine light on disparities in our country. While these calls, at times misunderstood, have seeped into the national consciousness, the use of this music – from the homogonzied industry itself and pop culture – has often not addressed the very social issues that drove its creation. Join us for a discussion about music and social justice with four extraordinary people who have dedicated their careers to the power of music to make change. Ken Fischer, President Emeritus of the University Musical Society, will introduce Ismael Ahmed, founder of the Concert of Colors; Brandon Victor Dixon, Broadway performer whose roles include Aaron Burr; Mike Ellison, Detroit musician; and Louise Toppin, Professor of Voice in the School of Music, Dance, and Theatre and vocal artist. Detroit notable and WDET music host, Ann Delisi will moderate the conversation, discussing music, playlists, and social change.

Oct 28, 2020 3:00 PMOnline

Join composer Lisa Bielawa as she unveils her new, broadly participatory musical work Voters’ Broadcast in its entirety for the first time onlinein this virtual event hosted by University Musical Society President Matthew VanBesien, and co-presented by University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Kaufman Music Center in New York.

Oct 28, 2020 5:30 PMZoom

With the election almost upon us, two sets of issues are foremost on voters’ minds – counting votes and how and results – or contested results – might be determined and covered by the media. Join four U-M Experts for a lightning round of conversation, followed by individual breakout rooms with a chance to ask your questions. Edie Goldenberg, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science, and founder of Turn up Turnout will discuss absentee ballots and voter fraud; Rob Mickey, Associate Professor of Political Science will address voter suppression; Jenna Bednar, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science will give a quick primer on the Electoral College and implications for election 2020, and Robert Yoon, Associate Director of Wallace House and lecturer in the Department of Communication and Media, will share his expertise on media covering elections.

Oct 29, 2020 5:30 PMZoom

With Election Day quickly approaching, Trotter Multicultural Center is beyond excited to present Civic Engagement & the Power of Speechwriting: Reflections from Former Presidential Speechwriters, a continuation of our beloved Trotter Distinguished Leadership Series, on October 29th (Thursday) from 5:30-7:00 PM. Hear from speechwriters, Sarah Hurwitz and John McConnell, as they discuss their experiences speechwriting for the Bush and Obama administration, as well as the role of speechwriting within civic engagement. The event will be moderated by Aaron Kall, U-M Director of Debate.

Oct 30, 2020 12:00 PMZoom

The Martin Luther King-led Birmingham and Selma campaigns resulted in iconic photographic images that to this day signify “the civil rights movement”: typically those images feature empowered, active whites and victimized, powerless blacks. The events of August 11th and 12th during Charlottesville’s “Summer of Hate” have also produced a group of iconic images that the mass media relies on to signify the violent and emboldened racist hatred of the “Unite the Right” rally and its aftermath. In analyzing and comparing the most frequently circulated photographs, I want to suggest a similarity in the narrative that these frequently circulated photos tend to tell about the struggle for racial justice. A photo of the terrorist car attack that killed Heather Heyer won the Pulitzer Prize. Why? What is this horrifically chaotic, violent, almost visually incomprehensible photo communicating? Why is this image reproduced over and over again? How is it thematically and visually similar to iconic images from the civil rights era? How and why does it matter that our photographic record encourages us to remember key events around race and white supremacy in particular ways?

Zoom Webinar – REGISTER HERE
Event Landing Page HERE

Oct 30, 2020 8:00 PM

Nusrat Durrani is a pioneering media executive and award-winning creative renowned for cutting-edge work in television, film, digital and social media. For two decades, Nusrat kept MTV at the forefront of the cultural conversation by boldly tackling themes related to pop culture, race, color, gender, sexual identity, and representation in programming he produced in provocative new formats. Nusrat’s ground-breaking documentary series “Rebel Music” about young activists around the world fighting oppression won accolades with the Obama White House, and preempted the current Black Lives Matter movement. “Madly,” his electrifying omnibus of unusual love stories by leading directors, won a best actress award at the Tribeca Film Festival. His latest work in film and photography explores the loss, disconnection, challenges and pleasures experienced by small town folks around the world and in the American heartland.

This Penny Stamps Speaker Series event includes a screening of Durrani’s newest film, An American Prayer. The film chronicles the magic, loss, and reincarnation of the American Dream told through the stories and incantations of its citizens.

Nov 2, 2020 9:00 PMZoom

The night before the 2020 General Election, let’s gather for a virtual dance party with music, PSAs and special guest appearances to celebrate democratic engagement across the partisan divide. Featuring performances by local favorite Sabbatical Bob, Kektus, Nova Zaii with Kultur Grenade, and the legendary Detroit-based techno-wizards Inner City.

For those that voted early and for those headed to the polls on November 3rd – push your furniture aside, keep socially-distanced, and remember we’re all Wolverines on the virtual dance floor.

Sponsors include Democracy & Debate Theme Semester, the Residential College, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, UMMA, the Ginsberg Center, and MUSIC Matters.

This event is free and open to all members of the U-M community and the general public. Check out for the band schedule a week before the show and for the YouTube Live event stream on November 2, 9:00pm to midnight.

Nov 12, 2020 11:30 AMZoom

Presenters: Co-editors Jessica Namakkal (Duke), Mark Bray (Rutgers), Eric Roubinek (UNC Asheville) and Giulia Riccò (University of Michigan)
Respondents: Federico Finchelstein (The New School); Victoria de Grazia (Columbia University)

Contributors to this issue of Radical History Review study histories of fascism and antifascism after 1945 to show how fascist ideology continues to circulate and be opposed transnationally despite its supposed death at the end of World War II.
The essays cover the use of fascism in the 1970s construction of the Latinx Left, the connection between antifascism and anti-imperialism in 1960s Italian Communist internationalism, post-dictatorship Argentina and the transhistorical alliance between Las Madres and travestí activism, cultures of antifascism in contemporary Japan, and the British radical right’s attempted alliance with Qathafi’s Libya. The issue also includes a discussion about teaching fascism through fiction in the age of Trump, a reflection on the practices of archiving and displaying antifascist objects to various publics, and reviews of recent works on antifascism, punk music, and the Rock Against Racism movement. Please RSVP to ? for the Zoom link and password. This event is sponsored by the Democracy and Debate Theme Semester.

Please pre-register for the Zoom meeting.

Nov 18, 2020 12:00 PMOnline

Free and open to the public. Register for a reminder here.

Join us for a discussion on election campaigns, both in 2020 and beyond. The discussion will include Katie Packer Beeson, former deputy campaign manager for the Romney/Ryan campaign in 2012 and founding partner of Burning Glass Consulting, and Greg Schultz, general election strategist and senior advisor for the 2020 Biden campaign. Broderick Johnson, current Towsley Policymaker in Residence and former assistant to the President and cabinet secretary during the Obama Administration, will moderate the discussion.

Nov 19, 2020

Dean Michael S. Barr will moderate a conversation with Ford School faculty members Betsey Stevenson, Shobita Parthasarathy, and John Ciorciari about the 2020 presidential election and policy priorities for the president-elect. This event is sponsored in conjunction with the University of Michigan Club of Washington, D.C.

a portrait of Angela Dillard
What makes Democracy & Debate distinctive is not only the contributions from across the university, but also the connection to the presidential election season and watch parties for the debates. This gives us the potential to have conversations that span the campus, the state and the globe. We’ve never had a theme semester with this kind of reach.
- Angela Dillard, Professor, U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Chair, Presidential Debate Academic Advisory Committee