Foreign Affairs Symposium lineup features grassroots activists

The student-run speaker series at Johns Hopkins invites public figures and activists to discuss issue relating to the theme 'Disrupt'

Composite image of speakers

Image caption: Speakers include (top row, from left) Erlendy Cuero Bravo, Farida Nabourema, Boots Riley, and (bottom row, from left) Solmaz Sharif, as well as representatives from the Lakota People's Law Project, the ArchCity Defenders, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, among others

Jill Rosen
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A diverse array of activists is slated to visit Johns Hopkins University this semester as part of the annual Foreign Affairs Symposium. This year's theme is "Disrupt."

"Our symposium this year focuses on grassroots activism—speakers who confront power structures head-on and fight for change," said co-executive director Kiana Boroumand. "We're hosting our most diverse lineup in history."

Launched in 1997, the annual Foreign Affairs Symposium is run by students and sponsored by the university's Office of Student Development and Programming.

"Throughout its history at Johns Hopkins, the Foreign Affair Symposium has strived to create a platform for discourse on diverse current issues," said co-executive director Nimish Vyas. "This year's theme embodies our effort to host speakers involved in grassroots movements, as opposed to the status quo."

All events are free and open to the public. The lineup includes:

Erlendy Cuero Bravo
Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. | Mason Hall | View event listing

Bravo is vice president of the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians and a legal representative for victims of violence and torture. Bravo is the winner of the symposium's annual Smedinghoff Award, created in honor of Johns Hopkins graduate and former symposium co-chair Anne Smedinghoff, who was killed in 2013 by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.

Solmaz Sharif
Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. | Arellano Theater | View event listing

Sharif's debut poetry collection LOOK was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award and 2017 PEN Open Book Award. In LOOK, she recounts her family's experience with exile and immigration in the aftermath of warfare—including living under surveillance and in detention in the United States. She is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
March 6 at 7 p.m. | Shriver Hall | View event listing

ICAN is a global coalition of non-governmental organizations that promotes adherence to a treaty-based ban on nuclear weapons. With 532 partners in 103 countries, the organization, which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, has led the movement against nuclear weapons through organizing public awareness campaigns and advocating for an international agreement within the United Nations.

Boots Riley
April 2 at 8 p.m. | Shriver Hall | View event listing

Riley is a Chicago-born activist-artist who has received critical acclaim for his directorial debut Sorry to Bother You, a surrealist dark comedy that takes place in a dystopian world of telemarketing that explores the intersection of capitalism and racism. Riley is also the lead vocalist for Street Sweeper Social Club and his hip-hop group, The Coup, has released politically-charged albums for the last three decades.

Panel on Law and Social Movements
April 16 at 8 p.m. | Shriver Hall | View event listing

Panelists include representatives from:

  • ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit civil rights law firm that provides pro-bono criminal and civil legal services in St. Louis, Missouri. They strive to make social services more accessible for individuals facing chronic homelessness and poverty, and use impact legislation to push for criminal justice reform. Blake Strode, executive director of the firm, will speak.

  • Immigrant Defense Project, an New York City-based nonprofit organization that leads impact litigation, legal training, post-conviction relief, and community defense efforts to protect America's vulnerable immigrants. Among their many projects, they have partnered with the Center for Constitutional Rights to develop the "ICEwatch: Raid Tactics Map." Marie Mark, the project's supervising attorney, will speak.

  • Lakota People's Law Project, which has launched a number of campaigns dedicated to protecting Lakota land, resources, and people. In 2016, the organization's Standing Rock legal defense fought the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Lead Counsel Chase Iron Eyes will speak at the event.

  • The Sentencing Project, which has been committed to criminal justice reform in the United States, addressing issues such as incarceration, felony disenfranchisement, and the hyper-criminalization of drugs. Among their many accomplishments, they helped pass the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act and participated in a national coalition supporting the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. Ashley Nellis, senior research analyst for the project, will present.

Dialogue with Farida Nabourema
April 30 at 7 p.m. | Mason Hall | View Event Listing

This event has been cancelled. This is a joint event between the symposium and the university's Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute as part of the SNF Agora Democracy Dialogues Series. Nabourema is a prolific social activist and writer, recently emerging as the unequivocal voice of Togo's pro-democracy movement. She is also the executive director of the Togolese Civil League, an NGO that promotes democracy and human rights in Togo. In 2011 Farida founded the Faure Must Go movement at the age of 20.