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Honoring Juneteeth: Engaging with Black History and Struggles in the Cultures and Communities Seminar

At the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture, we believe in the transformative impact of experiential learning and help our students develop a critical consciousness to change the world. On Juneteenth, we celebrate the enduring spirit of freedom and resilience within Black communities, inspiring our collective pursuit of justice and equality.

For decades, the Cultures and Communities seminar has been a signature component of students' urban living and learning experiences at the Chicago Center. This seminar brings together texts written by Chicagoans, conversations with community leaders, and place-based immersion to tell Chicago's story as a city that is complex, diverse, and artistically vibrant. 

This summer, students will engage with the history and ongoing struggles against racism and inequality in Black communities through engagement with First Voices and examination of various texts curated by Instructor Dr. Mel Rovner. Our first voice approach utilizes three key instructional elements to provide students with immersive experiences to consider context, community, and power and elevate community voices. 

Students will explore the impacts of policies on marginalized Black communities with a discussion at Kids Off the Block with founder Diane Latiker and reading Gordon K. Mantler’s “We Were Invisible” and In The Multiracial Promise: Harold Washington’s Chicago and the Democratic Struggle in Reagan’s America. 

Students will meet with Tiff Beatty, J’07, Program Director at the National Public Housing Museum and read Gwendolyn Brooks' work to examine cultural narratives of resilience. 

The exploration of representation and social justice will be facilitated through the analysis of John Edgar Wideman’s “Looking at Emmett Till” and the “Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See” exhibition, highlighting the power of imagery in social justice. 

Students will hear from Rev. Jamar Boyd, II, and members of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization about the important role of community organizing and activism. 

Finally, students will study protest art and its impact by visiting the Chicago History Museum’s Designing for Change Exhibition and reading Wadsworth Jarrell and Richard Allen May’s “Black in Chicago.”

While Juneteenth reminds us of the ongoing journey toward true emancipation and equality, our students will spend their summer learning about and reflecting on the struggles and joys of Black Chicagoans. The Chicago Center’s multidimensional approach prompts and supports students as they grapple with a new understanding of diversity, inequity, and paradoxes, empowering them to take action for a more just world.

About the Chicago Center

For nearly 55 years, the Chicago Center has leveraged the power of place and people to create transformative student learning experiences. Today, the Chicago Center prepares students to be global citizens with greater self-awareness and career preparedness. 

We help students gain practical experiences through internships and develop a critical consciousness to change the world.  By cultivating strategies for thinking and cultural learning through a community-based approach, the Chicago Center prepares our alumni to be lifelong learners and change agents in communities across the globe.

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