IU Bloomington panel to discuss race, policing and justice

  • March 12, 2015


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A panel at Indiana University Bloomington featuring widely known historian and writer William Jelani Cobb will discuss issues involving race, discrimination and the series of 2014 police shootings that sparked “black lives matter” protests across the nation.

The discussion will be part of an event titled "It’s Not So Black and White: Talking Race, From Ferguson to Bloomington," which will also include music and spoken-word performances by IU students and a social justice fair involving dozens of campus and community organizations.

It will take place at 7 p.m. March 26 at the Indiana Memorial Union, with the panel discussion in Alumni Hall and the social justice fair next door in the Solarium.

“We really wanted to offer something that’s going to engage students, engage the community and create a real conversation and dialogue,” said Amrita Myers, associate professor of history. “We hope to foster understanding, highlight issues that are causing friction and initiate strategies and solutions that will implement real change on campus, in our city and across the nation.”

Myers chairs the diversity committee of the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences, which took the lead in organizing the event. More than 20 IU and community organizations, offices and academic units are helping organize and sponsor it.

In addition to Cobb, who writes for The New Yorker and other publications, the panel will include Monroe Circuit Judge Valeri Haughton and Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, assistant professor in the IU Bloomington Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Arts and Sciences.

A town-hall session with questions and comments from the audience will follow the panel discussion. Jeannine Bell, professor and Louis F. Neizer Faculty Fellow in the Maurer School of Law, will moderate.

The event comes just three weeks after the U.S. Justice Department issued a report finding that police in Ferguson, Mo., routinely engaged in unconstitutional practices with a disproportionate impact on African-American residents of the St. Louis suburb.

Last summer's fatal shooting in Ferguson of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 19-year-old, touched off widespread protests. Police killings of African-Americans in Staten Island, N.Y., Cleveland and Beavercreek, Ohio, also contributed to a wave of national outrage.

Cobb, an associate professor of history at the University of Connecticut, visited Ferguson several times and wrote multiple articles about the city and the protests for The New Yorker, to which he has been a contributor since 2013. His writings also appear in The New York Times, Al-Jazeera America, ESPN and other publications.

Haughton has been a judge of the Monroe Circuit Court in Bloomington since 2009. She has been a deputy prosecutor, a deputy public defender, a board member of the Community Kitchen and the Community Justice and Mediation Center and a member of the Bloomington Commission on the Status of Black Males and the Bloomington Human Rights Commission.

Owusu-Bempah joined the IU Bloomington criminal justice faculty in 2014. His research focuses primarily on the intersections of race, crime and criminal justice. He is currently completing a project that examines the views and experiences of black police officers in Toronto, Canada.

Other sponsors of the event include Union Board; the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs; the Office of First Year Experiences; the School of Education; and the School of Public Health-Bloomington. A video of the panel discussion and town-hall meeting will be streamed live and archived at

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