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Charlene Carruthers, adrienne maree brown featured in CHF discussion
by Melissa Wasserman
2019-05-05

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Among its many events, Chicago Humanities Festival ( CHF ) hosted "Energizing Change: Charlene Carruthers and adrienne maree brown in Conversation" at Columbia College's Conway Center on May 4.

According to its website, CHF, in its 30th year, has committed to spending 2019 exploring how power works across political, economic, historical, social and interpersonal relations.

"I think .for us, with this year with the theme of power, we're really trying to show the different versions and different interpretations of what power can be or what is powerful or empowering and I think both Charlene and adrienne embody all of those things and I think their work has really been instrumental in lots of the movements that are coming out in the Midwest and lots of change in the way we think about activism and making change," said CHF Senior Program Manager Brenda Hernandez. "So I really thought it'd be important to include those kinds of voices in the festival."

This program was presented in partnership with Center for the Study of Race, Politics & Culture at the University of Chicago.

"Energizing Change" centered around a conversation between Carruthers ( author of Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements ) and brown ( author of both Pleasure Activism and Emergent Strategy ). Journalist/mentor Emmanuel Garcia—known for his role in organizing Chicago's Latinx LGBTQ communities—moderated the event.

"I hope people saw our love and respect for each other," said Carruthers about the sold-out event."I hope people saw love and respect for our people—for Black folk, for all people who come from oppressed communities or people from communities that are oppressed."

She added that she hopes people were inspired to think differently about certain things and asked more or different questions than they have asked before.

While the conversation covered Black identities, global all-inclusive women identities and things that are going to compel us to be better humans on this planet, addressed topics included who is responsible for creating change, what can we learn from the legacy of previous change-makers, among others.

"For me, it was important because we are in relationship with each other, to embody that in this conversation," Carruthers said about brown and the conversation. "Like you can be two powerful Black women and share a space with each other and like stan each other and get all excited about each other and at the same time help create a meaningful experience for other people."

"I feel the same way," said brown in response to Carruthers' statement. "I felt like I want my respect for Charlene to come through and for the work that she's done and for people to really get to feel the Black joy that is present. We've been working together for years and we've worked through some hard things … and the place that we land is both being: up more freedom and more joy, and it just felt really important to me that people get a visceral experience of that."

After the event, Carruthers and brown signed books for attendees and the CHF's Shortlist Committee offered light refreshments. Shortlist is CHF's exclusive membership geared toward Chicagoans in their 20s and 30s with a hand in arts, culture, politics and technology.

"My hope is that everybody reads these texts and doesn't just read them as 'those are good ideas' but reads them as 'we have practices and homework and next steps to attend to and how we're going to get to work,'" said brown.

"I want people to read all three of these books and our future books and be in commitment to their own development as people who are concerned about collective liberation," added Carruthers. "And if you're not concerned about collective liberation, before reading them, to actually be committed to it after reading them. Doing the work on yourself and also within community."

For more information on Chicago Humanities Festival, visit ChicagoHumanities.org .


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