Home » Social Justice

Social Justice

Do The Right Thing: Film Screening and Panel Discussion

The Cultural Films Committee is sponsoring a free, public screening of Spike Lee's  "Do the RIght Thing" at 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 26, at The Strand Theatre, 921 Main St. Grinnell, Iowa.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with:

In a 1989 New York Times movie review, critic Roger Ebert said, ”Anyone who walks into this film expecting answers is a dreamer or a fool. But anyone who leaves the movie with more intolerance than they walked in with wasn't paying attention.”

“Do the Right Thing doesn't ask its audiences to choose sides;" he added, “it is scrupulously fair to both sides, in a story where it is our society itself that is not fair.”

Read more of Ebert's review and join us for the screening.

Women and the Regenerative Agriculture of the Future

It is difficult to know what Iowa agriculture will look like in the future, but almost certainly it will not look like today’s agriculture. It cannot. There are too many things about current farming and food production methods that increasing numbers of people are questioning and that more and more observers consider unsustainable. We need an agriculture that regenerates and restores — the land, community, and human welfare — while providing us with healthy food.

How do we attract young people into agriculture? How can young farmers gain access to land? What role can and will women farmers play in the agriculture of the future?

Denise O’Brien is uniquely positioned to address these and other questions based on her long career as a farmer and farm activist and will do so in two events on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

  • 4 p.m. Panel Discussion: Wisdom of the Elders: Mentoring Beginning Farmers
  • 7:30 p.m. Public Talk: A Long Time Farm Activist Looks to the Future

Both events will be held in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101. Refreshments will be served at these free public events.

In the afternoon panel O’Brien will be joined by Susan Jutz, another long-time Iowa farmer, and two young women who are learning the ropes from them, Ash Bruxvoort and Carmen Black.

In the evening presentation O’Brien will provide a retrospective on changes in agriculture and offer her thoughts on the direction agriculture needs to move in the future.

About the Participants

Denise O'Brien

O'Brien is a farmer and community organizer from Atlantic, Iowa. She has farmed with her husband, Larry Harris, for 39 years. She maintains sixteen acres of organic fruit and vegetable production incorporating high tunnel production. O’Brien also raises turkeys and chickens for meat and egg production.

O’Brien has worked within the agricultural community on policy development at the state, national, and international levels and is involved in the community of women in agriculture, organic production, local food systems, and conservation issues.

O’Brien founded the Women Food and Agriculture Network, and has organized the Women's Task Force of the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition, directed the Rural Women's Leadership Development Project of PrairieFire Rural Action, Inc. and served as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. She was a Food and Society Fellow for a W.K. Kellogg-funded program 2001–03. She currently serves on the board of the Pest Action Network and the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust. In 2012, O’Brien completed a year assignment with the United States Department of Agriculture as an agriculture adviser in Afghanistan.

O’Brien has received many awards including the Practical Farmers of Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Iowa Farmer's Union. O'Brien was inducted into Iowa's Women's Hall of Fame in 2000. In January, O’Brien was named one of 45 inspiring women by Country Woman Magazine.

Over the years O'Brien has written and spoken across the United States and the world on women in agriculture, organic and sustainable farming and local food systems. O'Brien has been quoted in national publications from the Nation to Ms. Magazine.

Carmen Black

Black grew up outside of Solon, Iowa, participating in 4H with many agricultural projects, but adamantly didn't want to be a farmer until moving away to attend Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. It was there while studying peace and global studies that she realized that many of the difficult issues facing her communities were directly related to industrial agriculture, and also recognized how much she loved growing food.

For the past four years, she has been a regional organizer with Real Food Challenge, a national student organization working to shift college and university dining purchasing to more just and sustainable sources. This is her first season as a full-time farmer back in Solon.

Ash Bruxvoort

Bruxvoort is a freelance writer, marketer, and beginning farmer in Mitchellville, Iowa. She blogs about marketing for small farms and nonprofits. She’s worked with many nonprofit organizations, including WFAN, the Iowa Food Coop, and The Nature Conservancy in Iowa.

Her work has appeared in Edible Omaha, Modern Farmer, Seedstock, and Precision Ag Magazine.

Susan Jutz

Jutz owns and operates ZJ Farm, an 80-acre diversified vegetable and sheep farm located between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Before moving to Iowa in 1994 she earned a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

In 1996, she co-founded Local Harvest CSA, a three-season community-supported agriculture program. It was one of the first CSAs in Iowa and helped pave the way for this model of community-centered farming to take root and flourish in the state.

Jutz has been a principal partner and vegetable grower for the CSA, which now supplies more than 200 families with a wide variety of fresh vegetables and herbs grown using organic and sustainable practices.

Her commitment to sustainable agriculture and healthy food dates back to her childhood growing up on her family’s dairy farm near Gibbon, Minnesota. Her parents cared deeply about the land and their animals, limited their use of chemicals, and always talked about the family’s responsibility to those who came after and to the land, animals and community. In 2014, Jutz was awarded the Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award by the organization Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Wanted: Applicants for Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership Positions

The Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership is accepting applications for 14 service member positions during the 2015-16 service year through Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. AmeriCorps service members will begin serving their terms on October 30, 2015.

The program provides community service positions for individuals interested in addressing specific Grinnell-area education priorities, such as:

  • Advancing Grinnell’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading (by helping all Grinnell students to read at grade level by third grade);
  • Reducing the Graduate Skills Gap (by preparing high-school graduates with skills needed for employment); and 
  • Supporting existing after-school programs (by adding enrichment resources).

"Service members should have an interest in education and community, and have demonstrated an ability to interact well with people from various backgrounds (especially youth)," said Melissa Strovers, program and communications manager in Grinnell College's Community Enhancement and Engagement Office. "Before beginning their service term, team members will go through training to learn about the program's mission, priorities, and individual member obligations."

Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership seeks 11 full-time and 3 quarter-time members for up to 12 months of service. To apply, one must be at least 17 years of age, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and successfully complete a criminal history background check.

AmeriCorps members will serve at one of several Grinnell AmeriCorps host sites. Full-time members will complete a minimum of 1,700 service hours during their term of service and quarter-time members will complete a minimum of 450 service hours to successfully complete their terms of service. Service members receive a living allowance, student loan forbearance and, for those who qualify, health coverage and childcare assistance.

Following successful completion of their term, members are eligible for an education award that may be used to repay existing qualified student loans or pay the cost of tuition or books. This award is redeemable up to seven years after their service year.

Applying for the Positions

Grinnell College students can apply for the quarter-time positions listed through PioneerLink.

Other applicants should complete the application packet, which includes detailed service descriptions, benefits, qualifications, and the application form.

Applications are due Sept. 18, 2015, to Community Enhancement & Engagement, 733 Broad Street, Grinnell, Iowa, 50112.

For more information about the Grinnell AmeriCorps Member Service positions, contact Community Enhancement & Engagement, 641-269-3900.

The Law of the Land

Akhil Reed AmarLearn more about the U.S. Constitution from one of the leading constitutional scholars in the United States.

Akhil Reed Amar, the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, will give a lecture titled "The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic (with Special Emphasis on Iowa)" for Constitution Day at Grinnell College. 

His talk begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Amar's lecture is based on his recently published book, "The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of our Constitutional Republic." He will examine the role geography, federalism and regionalism have played in constitutional law, focusing on a landmark case that originated in Iowa, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.

In 1965 Mary Beth Tinker and other Des Moines students decided to wear black armbands to school to protest U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. School officials learned of the protest plans and quickly adopted a no-armband rule. Nevertheless the students wore the armbands to school and were suspended for violating school policy.

Represented by the ACLU, the students sued, claiming violation of their First Amendment rights. A lengthy court battle ensued, culminating in the 1969 Supreme Court ruling in the Tinker case that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

His visit is sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

Akhil Reed Amar

Professor Amar teaches constitutional law at both Yale College and Yale Law School, where he received Yale's highest teaching honor, the DeVane Medal, in 2008. His work has been favorably cited by Supreme Court justices from both ends of the spectrum in more than 30 cases and he is regularly invited to testify before Congress at the request of both Republicans and Democrats.

The author of six books, Amar has also contributed to several popular publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic and Slate. His work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society.

50 years of International Work to Eliminate Racial Discrimination

DDavid Keaneavid Keane, senior lecturer in law at London's Middlesex University, will lecture on "Fifty Years of the International Convention to End All Forms of Racial Discrimination." 

ICERD was the first international human rights treaty, and Keane's lecture will assess its 50 years of enforcement efforts in the context of post-colonialism.

Keane will speak 7–8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101. A reception will follow the talk.

His talk is sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights and the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, in collaboration with the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights. 

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

David Keane

David Keane is senior lecturer in Law at Middlesex University. He holds a bachelor's from University College Cork, and a master's and doctorate from the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway, where he was awarded a Government of Ireland scholarship for his doctoral studies.

Keane's research focuses on international human rights and minority rights law. His book Caste-based Discrimination in International Human Rights Law won the Hart Book Prize for early career scholars, and has been cited by the U.K. Supreme Court in its very first judgment. He is also involved in a range of training, advocacy and advice on human rights issues. 

Current Styles in African Illustration

"Current Styles in African Illustration" highlights a diverse selection of some of the best talents in children's illustration in Africa.

The Burling Gallery exhibition, on display Oct. 26 through Dec. 18, showcases current and distinctive styles coming from various regions on the continent. The illustrations are submissions to the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators. Golden Baobab founder Deborah Ahenkorah is a recipient of the 2015 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize.

The exhibition is located on the lower level of Burling Library and is sponsored by the Faulconer Gallery.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Burling Gallery is wheelchair accessible. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

Asking Thoughtful Questions

Since Anna-Lisa Bowans ’12 graduated from Grinnell, she:

  • spent a year in Bangalore, India, on a social enterprise fellowship
  • worked for a for-profit, social enterprise company in Berkeley, Calif., and
  • recently moved into the tech industry

“The biggest skills that I got out of going to Grinnell were communication skills — verbal and written — and being able to ask really intelligent and thoughtful questions,” Bowans says. She now works for Localytics, a Boston-based company that helps developers of mobile and web apps.

Bowans’ role is to work with start-up and growth customers in a position that did not exist prior to her hiring. She’s excited to be working in an app-focused company that is “on the cutting edge, and very much a thought leader in the space,” she says.

“Every assignment I had at Grinnell was about critical thinking and asking questions,” Bowans says. “That has been key for me in my job. The skills that I got from Grinnell were not necessarily ones I recognized as skills when I graduated. But the longer I spend in the workforce, the more I realize that the training and development I got at Grinnell were invaluable.”

Bowans also credits some of her extracurricular opportunities for her career success, including initiating a Hindi language program and her internship with a local non-profit, the Ahrens Foundation.

“Leadership opportunities at Grinnell gave me confidence and experience in public speaking,” she says, “and in speaking with people of different backgrounds to accomplish my goals. I also learned to prioritize and balance competing demands, and this has been key for being effective in a start-up environment.”

Eventually, Bowans envisions a future that weaves in her different experiences. “I would love to move into social enterprise that works in mobile or in big data,” she says. “That is on the horizon for me.”

Anna-Lisa Bowans ’12 majored in economics with a concentration in global development studies. She works as an account manager for Localytics in its San Francisco office.

Get a Haircut, Read a Book

A Saturday morning haircut ignited a passion and inspired a program that is drawing Alvin Irby ’07 national attention.

“I want to change the conversation and spark national discussion about reading, especially for black boys,” Irby says. “The issue is not capacity or ability. The issue is identity. Instead of asking ‘Why aren’t they reading?,’ let’s ask ‘Why shouldn’t they be reading?” Their social cues are not there. They may never see black adult males reading and engaging with books. They may never have black role models in the classroom.”

Love of reading

In Advanced Placement English, Irby says, he “fell in love with reading and thought everyone else should too.” While student body president at his Little Rock, Ark., high school, Irby conducted a survey and found that many students didn’t read beyond what was required of them.

After graduating from Grinnell with a sociology degree, Irby moved to New York City where he taught first grade at Bronx Public School 69.

Alvin IrbyOn a Saturday, while waiting for a haircut at a local barbershop, Irby observed one of his students, also waiting, acting out, running around, being bored.

“He was my student, and I thought he should be using his time better. He should be reading,” Irby says. He went home that day and wrote a one-page statement about the need to create spaces in barbershops where black boys could read.

Irby put the idea for what would become Barbershop Books on the shelf while he pursued other work.

He delved into a two-year role as education director at the Boys Club of New York in East Harlem. When he decided he needed formal management training to advance his work, he applied to NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, entered a non-profit management program, and “used every class to start Barbershop Books.”

Starting Barbershop Books

“Once I completed my MPA, I knew I was ready to start Barbershop Books,” Irby says. “I used all of my own money, plus some crowdfunding to help pilot the program in six reading spaces in Harlem and Brooklyn barbershops.”

A public policy competition drew national attention to his project, and Irby has since received requests from across the country to bring Barbershop Books to Anchorage, Baltimore, and Kansas City, to name a few.

Each barbershop book space costs $500 to stock with “culturally diverse, age appropriate, and gender responsive books,” as well as an attractive yellow reading chair and book sling. Irby is working full-time to apply for grants and solicit strategic partnerships to launch the program in other cities.

“We are all a collection of our experiences,” Irby says.  “I don’t take for granted that I’ve had opportunities. I want to use my experience to change how black boys identify themselves as readers.”

One haircut, one book at a time.

When the Wolves Came In

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion will perform “When the Wolves Came In,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, in Roberts Theatre in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

This stand-alone repertory-based program explores the historical legacy of two triumphs in the international history of civil rights: the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 20th anniversary of the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.

Abraham was inspired by Max Roach’s iconic 1960 protest album “We Insist: Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite,” which celebrated the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and shed a powerful light on the growing civil rights movements in South Africa and the United States.

The potent themes inherent in these historical milestones are evident in Abraham’s choreography, evocative scenery by visual artist Glenn Ligon, the visceral power of Roach’s masterwork and original compositions of Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Robert Glasper.

In addition to the performance, Abraham will give a free, public talk titled "Dance Repertory as Creative Collaboration" at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101. The Center for the Humanities and the Public Events Committee are sponsoring the talk and the performance.

About Kyle Abraham

A 2013 MacArthur Fellow, Abraham began his dance training at the Civic Light Opera Academy. He later studied dance at State University of New York at Purchase, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and at New York University, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in the Tisch School of the Arts.

Abraham’s choreography has been presented throughout the United States and abroad in countries including Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Ireland, Japan, and Jordan. In November 2012, Abraham was named New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist for 2012-14. One month later, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater premiered his work, “Another Night at New York’s City Center,” to rave reviews.


“When the Wolves Came In” is free and open to the public, although tickets are required.

Ticket distribution will begin at noon Tuesday, Sept. 8, in the box office of the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. A limited number of tickets are also available at the Pioneer Bookshop located at 823 Fourth Ave.

Any tickets not distributed by the box office will be available the night of the show beginning one half hour before show time. For more information, call 641-269-3236.

No tickets are needed for Friday's talk.

Alumni Begin Year of Service

This August, a dozen Grinnell alumni began a year of service through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC), a national service-leadership program that unites people to work for peace with justice. The program is popular among Grinnellians, and Grinnellians are popular with the organization, as well. Holding more than 10% of the 104 positions, the Grinnellians represent the largest group of alumni from any college or university in this year’s cohort of volunteers.

After the week of intensive training and orientation on topics including anti-racism work, self-care and intercultural communication, the volunteers dispersed to 13 U.S. cities, each person committed to serve full-time for one year with a particular social justice organization, while practicing simple, sustainable living in household communities of four to seven people.

The Grinnell alumni are serving in a variety of positions — including case managers, program assistants, and academic associates — and in everything from marketing and communications to farm and gardens to academics. They will serve in six cities this year:

Chicago, Ill.
Hannah Bernard ’15, Chicago Community Loan Fund
Elaine Fang ’15, Lakeview Pantry
Eleni Irrera ’14, Free Spirit Media
Katherine Quinn ’15, Lincoln Park Community Shelter
Milwaukee, Wis.
Ankita Sarawagi ’15, Bread of Healing Clinic
Seattle, Wash.
Rebecca Carpenter ’15, Jewish Family Service
Tacoma, Wash.
Fatima Cervantes ’15, L’Arche Tahoma Hope
Brittany Hubler ’15, L’Arche Tahoma Hope
Twin Cities, Minn.
Jordan Schellinger ’15, Twin Cities’ Habitat for Humanity
Alex Sharfman ’15, Our Saviour's Community Services
Washington, D.C.
Georgina Haro ’15, La Clinica del Pueblo
Alexa Stevens ’15, Thurgood Marshall Academy

The LVC says they are “proud of the continued partnership with Grinnell College and congratulates these 12 Grinnellians as they begin their year of service!”

LVC, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is open to persons from all spiritual traditions and welcomes people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered in all aspects of the organization. It supports volunteers as they explore the spiritual aspects of justice, community, and sustainability.

The Grinnell alumni earned degrees in a wide variety of areas: anthropology, art, biological chemistry, economics, French, psychology, philosophy, political science, Russian, sociology, and Spanish.