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New American Dream: Town Halls on Disrupting Systemic Racism – Turned Against the Tide

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.

TURNED AGAINST THE TIDE: Heeding the Call of White Antiracism is a conversation with five leaders who bring the message of antiracism to white communities through music, culture, and direct engagement. How do white antiracists leverage culture to oppose white supremacy?

With Gregg August, Sara Donnelly, Merrill Garbus, Karen Pittelman, and Dan Zanes. Moderated by Ginny Suss. Opening performance by Ailish Hopper.

About the Panelists

Bassist and composer Gregg August spans the classical, avant-garde, jazz, and Latin jazz worlds, making him one of the most versatile musicians on the scene today. His career has included roles in major orchestras and ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic and Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, with whom he’s won five Grammys. August’s latest CD, Dialogues on Race, is an extended jazz suite that examines race relations in the U.S. and urges opposition to racial injustice. Learn more: Gregg August

Sara Donnelly is a seasoned arts grantmaker specializing in jazz for more than 30 years. She is the first director of jazz at South Arts, and launched its national Jazz Road initiative in 2019. In April 2020, she led an emergency assistance program to provide Covid-19 relief funds to 450 freelance jazz artists in 42 states. Based in DC, she has held funding roles with the NEA, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and other institutions. She is an occasional performing vocalist and a recipient of the DC Jazz Leaders in Service Award.

Tune-Yards’ 2018 album, I can feel you creep into my private life, was an examination of their complicity in white supremacy and indebtedness to Black musical traditions. Re-engaging with a love of music-making helped Tune-Yards grapple with how to transform themselves. Their new album, sketchy, bursts with pleasure as they call others in and ask them to do the same. “There’s this tightrope that we walk as musicians,” says Merrill Garbus. “People come to us to be entertained. We also have a responsibility, I believe, to wake people up. Not to tell them how to feel – but to give them space to feel.”

Karen Pittelman is singer-songwriter for the queer country band, Karen & the Sorrows. She has written two nonfiction books about social justice philanthropy and her poetry is widely published. She also helps build a queer country community through the Gay Ole Opry and the Queer Country Quarterly, creating space for people who love country music even if it doesn’t always love them back. Lately, she has been ranting about the relationship between country music and white supremacy – and what we can do about it. Learn more: Karen Pittleman

Grammy-winner Dan Zanes occupies a unique place in American music – where sea shanties, English Music hall, play party songs, early rock-n-roll, soul, and West Indian folk music collide. Called “The Gold Standard in kid’s music” by NPR, he has toured the world for 20 years, sharing handmade 21st century social music with enthusiastic kids and kid sympathizers. Today Dan and his wife, Haitian-American jazz vocalist Claudia Zanes, bring their soulful folk music to people of all ages. Dan is a co-founder of Constructive White Conversations, a white antiracist affinity group. Learn more: Dan Zanes

MODERATOR: Ginny Suss is a producer, content creator, cultural curator, and the CEO of Ginny Suss Productions. Active in social justice work, she was a co-founder and producer of the Women’s March on Washington in 2017. Over the past 15 years, Ginny has dipped her toes in almost every aspect of the music industry, including as the founder of, the former VP of, and today as the co-founder and manager of the Resistance Revival Chorus, an all-women’s and non-binary collective that focuses on protest music.

Performance by Ailish Hopper

Ailish Hopper is a poet, teacher, collaborator, and writer. She has received numerous fellowships and her writing has appeared in American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. The poems in her new book, Dark~Sky Society, explore the ways language can be complicit with, or resistant to, racism and white supremacy, asking if it’s possible to be both raced and free. Her recent essay, “Can a Poem Listen?” examines racism in the white literary world. She teaches in the Peace Studies program at Goucher College.

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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