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New American Dream: Town Halls on Disrupting Systemic Racism – Braver Than the One Before It

What have the first two decades of the 21st century taught us about systemic racism in the United States, and what new visions of democracy and racial justice are needed to reclaim, revitalize, and redefine the American Dream?

NEW AMERICAN DREAM, April 28 through May 26 on Wednesdays, is a five-week series of virtual forums that will gather thought leaders from across the country to discuss the impact of white supremacy and structural racism on America today. The event will also explore ways to make the nation’s policies and culture more accountable to its democratic ideals.

NEW AMERICAN DREAM will examine systemic racism in relation to five pillars of contemporary society: voting rights, artificial intelligence and genetic data, journalism, antiracism, and cultural narrative. The focus is on strategies and solidarity, with an understanding of history and eyes toward the future.

BRAVER THAN THE ONE BEFORE IT: In Search of the New American Dream is a conversation with five major authors on what America means and can become for people long kept at its margins.

With Cathy Park Hong, Robert Jones, Jr., Laila Lalami, Valeria Luiselli, and Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho). Moderated by Lisa Lucas. Opening performance by Sandra Lilia Velasquez.


Cathy Park Hong’s work of creative nonfiction, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, won The National Book Critics Circle Award for best autobiographical book of 2020. She is also the author of the poetry collections Engine Empire, and Dance Dance Revolution, chosen by Adrienne Rich for the Barnard Women Poets Prize. Hong is the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA Fellowship. She is the poetry editor of the New Republic and a full professor at Rutgers-Newark University. Learn more: Cathy Park Hong

New York Times-bestselling author Robert Jones, Jr., was born and raised in New York City. He received his BFA in creative writing with honors and MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Paris Review, Essence, OkayAfrica, The Feminist Wire, and The Grio. He is the creator of the social-justice social media community, Son of Baldwin. The Prophets is his debut novel.

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the U.S. Her 2014 novel, The Moor’s Account, won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her recent bestselling novel, The Other Americans, was a finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction. She is a full professor at the University of California. Her latest book, Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America, was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. Learn more: Laila Lalami

Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa, and India. An acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, her works include the essay collection Sidewalks; Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions; and her latest novel, Lost Children Archive. She is the recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship and the winner of two L.A. Times Book Prizes, the Carnegie Medal, and an American Book Award. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages. She is a Writer in Residence at Bard College and lives in New York City. Learn more: Valeria Luiselli

Tommy Orange is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and he was born and raised in Oakland, California. His debut novel, the national bestseller There There, won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and the American Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The audiobook for There There was a 2019 Audie Award finalist for Multi-Voiced Performance. Learn more: Tommy Orange

MODERATOR: A prominent leader with unparalleled passion, Lisa Lucas is an essential champion of literature. She was the youngest, first woman, and first person of color to be the executive director of the National Book Foundation. In 2020, she accepted a position to head Pantheon and Schocken Books as Senior Vice President. She is vocal about inclusivity in publishing, insisting that the word transcends boundaries to include everyone regardless of their racial, economic, or geographic background.

Performance by Lilia Velasquez

OPENING PERFORMANCE: Sandra Lilia Velasquez is a Mexican American songwriter, vocalist, and bandleader based in Brooklyn, NY. A multi-instrumentalist, she is known for her socially conscious bilingual lyrics and Latin rhythms across three musical projects: Pistolera, Moona Luna, and SLV. Originally from the border town of San Diego, CA, and raised by Mexican immigrant activists, Velasquez has dedicated her musical expression to empowering the Latinx community in the face of persistent racism and inequality.

Presented by The WNET Group, parent to America’s flagship PBS station.

Curated by Brian Tate.

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Thanks to our partners:

Ms. Foundation for Women
Brennan Center for Justice
Black Futures Lab
NYU Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation
The Center for Anti-Violence Education
Brooklyn Book Festival

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