Panel Discussion

Echoes from the Street: Activist Perspectives on Violence and Civil Society

Dec 03, 2020 | 12:00- 1:30 PM

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A Panel Discussion with

Soren Stevenson, Minnesota

Brian Leung , Hong Kong and Washington

Nova Lucero, New York

Moderated by Prof. Frances Fox Piven, The Graduate Center, CUNY

The theme for this semester has been violence and civil society. Our initial panel suggested, at the very least, some ways in which politics itself depends on violence, and is not separate from civil society. Subsequent sessions bore this out in sometimes direct, and sometimes indirect ways, with consideration of the homeschooling movement’s foundation in racist resistance to school integration—into the 1970s—as well as elements of violence internalized in the limits on demands of LGBTQ+ activists, and consideration of the ways that academic writing often understands and relates the relationship of violence and protest in significantly different ways than activists themselves understand it.

In the final session, we ask people who are on the frontlines of struggle about violence and movements in a moment in which both protest policing and counter-movement strategies have become increasingly violent and intertwined, but also in which a global pandemic has exposed the everyday violence of the crushing inequality of urban spaces: from Hong Kong and Minnesota to New York , three organic intellectuals of contemporary struggles offer their reflections and suggestions for researchers with one foot in the academy and one foot in the trenches.

About the Speakers

Soren Stevenson is a recent graduate from Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ International Development Program. His background is in health and healthcare but has recently shifted focus towards foundational issues like housing and the environment. In the George Floyd uprising, Soren was shot with a rubber bullet by Minneapolis police while nonviolently protesting.

Brian Leung is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. His research interests include the political economy of development, authoritarian institutions, and political violence. He is also interested in a wide set of computational methods and causal inference techniques, including survey experiments, social network analysis, and text analysis. He received his B.Soc.Sci. and LL.B. from University of Hong Kong in 2017

Nova Lucero is a Tenant Organizer at The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and an Adjunct Instructor at City College of New York, CUNY. Nova works with tenants in the Bronx to create tenants associations and fight for better housing conditions for tenants across New York State. She previously worked with Northern Manhattan tenants and residents creating tenants associations and fighting the city proposed rezoning for Inwood, as well as an Eviction Prevention Case Manager and Housing Specialist in the South Bronx, with families facing eviction and currently living in the shelter system. Nova graduated from Fordham University with a B.A. in Political Science.

Frances Fox Piven is a Distinguished Professor in Sociology and Political Science at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is an internationally renowned social scientist, scholar, and activist whose commitments to poor and working people, and to the democratic cause have never wavered. Piven is the author or co-author of more than 200 articles published in academic journals, books, popular publications and journals of opinion since 1965, including Poor People’s Movements (1977), Regulating the Poor (1971), and Why Americans Don’t Vote (1988) (with the late Richard A. Cloward), and Keeping Down the Black Vote (2009).


Live from the Frontlines: Protest and Violence from the Perspective of Activists and Social Movement Leaders

by Nantasha Williams

Nov 19, 2020 | 12:00- 1:30 PM

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Don’t talk to us about looting. Y’all are the looters. America has looted Black people. America looted the Native Americans when they first came here, so looting is what you do. We learned it from you. We learned violence from you. We learned violence from you. The violence was what we learned from you. So if you want us to do better, then, damn it, you do better.” – Tamika Mallory, Co-Founder Until Freedom

Recent social uprisings in the name of Black Lives have been associated with violence primarily in the media, despite other reports that say otherwise. Dominant reports and studies typically tell a one-sided story, based on an outsider’s perspective and fail to uplift the voices of those who are currently on the frontlines. Previous research typically relies on theory and policy and doesn’t consider qualitative data from experienced individuals actively involved in social movements over the last decade. Future research should use qualitative data from individuals that span generations, social movement style, and positionality to tell a richer story of the transgressions of radicalism and violence. Leaning on my personal experiences working within and with recent movements such as the Women’s March on Washington, Until Freedom, and the Gathering for Justice I will leverage my own observations as well as the knowledge of those “live from the movement” to uncover how they view the current movement in comparison to historic movements of the past, and the fate/state of future social movements. The study also seeks to wrestle with central narratives around the usage of and reporting of violence in the name of social justice and possible dangers caused by misuse of such narratives.

About the Speaker

Nantasha Williams is a well respected political strategist and policy whiz who works tirelessly for communities across the country. In 2014, she was appointed the Executive Director of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus (“the Caucus”) … one of the largest and most influential political entities in the State of New York. As the Executive Director,

Because of her work Williams was honored as one of Albany’s rising stars top 40 under 40 by City & State and later went to run for the New York State Assembly Seat in Southeast Queens in 2016. Her fight for human rights, feminism, and political righteousness, led her to organize one of the largest demonstrations in American history, the Women’s March on Washington as a National Organizer; post the March Nantasha currently serves as consultant to Women’s March Inc.

Outside of Women’s March Nantasha is Manager of External Affairs at John F. Kennedy Airport. Nantasha Williams received her Bachelors of Art degree in Political Science from Virginia Commonwealth University, holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, and currently in a PhD program for Social Welfare at the CUNY Graduate Center.

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