Campus Community

The Freedom to Dream

April 6, 2023

art for racial equity summit

This year’s Racial Equity Summit will feature keynote from acclaimed author and historian Dr. Imani Perry. 

Seattle University’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with the campus community, is hosting the Racial Equity Summit on April 13. The theme of this year’s summit, which is a biannual event, is “Freedom Dreaming” and will include a keynote from award-winning author Imani Perry, PhD, JD, LLM, an internationally acclaimed historian and winner of the 2022 National Book Award for nonfiction for South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation.

In addition to Dr. Perry’s keynote, the Racial Equity Summit will feature Freedom School sessions based on the model of the Freedom Schools created during the Civil Rights era.

“We are thrilled to offer this unique opportunity to engage with pressing issues of racial equity,” says Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Natasha Martin, JD. “‘Freedom Dreaming’ is not fantasy or daydreaming but instead it is a mindful, continuous act of empowerment and hope. I look forward to the summit as a way for all of us to connect, dialogue, support and enrich one another.”

The Freedom Schools of the 1960s were first developed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. The Freedom School sessions were intended to serve as an answer to the "sharecropper education" received by many African-American students and poor whites. Freedom School curriculum was progressive and designed to empower attendees to act politically and civically on their own behalf. 

Freedom Schools

Racial Equity Summit Freedom School sessions will be led by Seattle University faculty and staff and include a range of topics. Attendees will be able to select up to two different sessions through the course of the event. Here’s a closer look at the offerings:

Building Community
8 a.m. Readying for the Journey
Preparation, Pigott Atrium (with live music by Zach Bruce and Band)

Enjoy breakfast, coffee and live music while you take a walk through an exhibit celebrating freedom dreamers throughout U.S. history. Take advantage of this opportunity to reflect on the journeys, work and dedication of those who move with the courage and audacity to dream of a better tomorrow. 

8:30 a.m.: The Journey Begins (Context)
Welcome & the Power of Place, Pigott Auditorium

This stop will open the door to the rest of our endeavor focusing on wholeness and reconciliation. Various community members will then provide affirmations, centering framework and invocation to mark our journey together.

Nurturing Radical Inclusion through Collective Learning and Engagement
9:15 a.m.: Pause at the Mountain Top (Clarity)
Keynote Address and Q&A, Pigott Auditorium

Acclaimed author and historian Dr. Imani Perry joins us remotely to speak about her award-winning book, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation. Dr. Perry will discuss important concepts, themes and insights related to the journey to racial equity. This is a rare opportunity to hear from one of the foremost scholars and a 2022 National Book Award Winner for nonfiction.

10:30 a.m.: Reimagine an Equitable Future (Reflect)
Remarks by Senior Leadership, Poetry Presentation and Discussion with Dr. Imani Perry on Imagining Transformation, Pigott Auditorium

Imagining Transformation
11 a.m.: Exploring Pathways to Freedom: More Knowledge is Power

Freedom Schools, various classroom locations on campus.

Learn something new or deepen an understanding on a range of racial equity topics.

Freedom School facilitators will engage participants in a wide range of topics related to racial equity, encompassing intersectional voices and perspectives on productive activism, spirituality, media, personal accountability, creative acts and many others.

11:10 a.m.: Freedom School Session One (A New Pathway)
Noon: Freedom School Session Two (A Second Pathway)

Choose another topic or engage with another Freedom School session. The Freedom School track repeats so you get to choose two pathways to explore!

12:45 p.m.: Recommit—Concluding this Journey, Beginning Another (Evolve)
Stewarding Freedom Dreams with Remarks, Special Giveaways and a Send-Off, Pigott Auditorium

Join as a community to debrief on the day’s lessons and experiences. Recommit to the ongoing journey toward freedom—your unique dreams and our collective ones as a university. There will also be prizes and other special giveaways!

Explore the history of Freedom Schools and review a flipbook created by ODI to learn more on Freedom Dreaming.

More about Keynote Speaker Dr. Imani Perry

Born just nine years after the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, Imani Perry was instilled from an early age with a strong instinct for justice and progressive change. The rich interplay between history, race, law and culture continues to inform her work as a critically acclaimed author and the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University.

Among many other awards and accolades, Dr. Perry is the winner of the 2022 National Book Award for Nonfiction for her most recent book, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation. Dr. Perry’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, New York Magazine and Harper’s, among other publications. 

Learn more about the Racial Equity Summit, which is free and open to all members of the SU community.