DETROIT — Acclaimed civil rights scholar john a. powell (he uses no capitals in his name) will read from his new book, “Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Others to Build an Inclusive Society,” in a special event at Wayne State University Law School on Nov. 13.
The event — free and open to the public — will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by the reading at 7 p.m. It will take place in the Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium at Wayne Law, 471 W. Palmer St. Parking for the event is available for $6 in Structure No. 1 across from the Law School. The author will have copies of his book available for purchase and signing.
The reading and book signing is sponsored by the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at the Law School, by the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, the Michigan Universal Health Care Network, MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength) and by the Kellogg Population Health Council of the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority. A national voice on race and ethnicity, powell is a co-chair of the Population Health Council,, which addresses racial and other health disparities.
Professor powell chooses not to use upper-case letters in his name as a tribute to those African Americans, who, when gaining independence from slaveholders, reclaimed their personal authority by taking the capitals out of the names their oppressors had given them. He leads the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas Diversity Research Center, joining the faculty of UC Berkeley School of Law and departments of Ethnic and African American Studies last spring.
The Haas Center is a multidisciplinary research initiative to study race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and socioeconomic status. The professor has written extensively on issues such as structural racialization, racial justice and regionalism, concentrated poverty and urban sprawl, opportunity-based housing, voting rights, affirmative action in the United States and abroad, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice and the needs of citizens in a democratic society. Experts consider his work insightful, original and impactful.
Professor Peter Hammer, director of the Keith Center at Wayne Law, describes powell as a “hurricane of social action in practice.” powell was selected as the Keith Center’s inaugural Distinguished Visiting Professor in 2009.
“john has been a pioneer in the field of structural racism, bringing to bear theories of implicit bias, cognitive science and complex adaptive systems,” Hammer said. “His analysis of the structures that perpetuate privilege/oppression is path-breaking. It opens up new understandings of contemporary social needs and challenges us to develop new tools and tactics to address issues of civil rights and social justice. His work has profoundly shaped my understanding of race in America and how I have tried to shape our agenda at the Keith Center.”
Professor powell, who was born and raised in Detroit, earned his J.D. from the University of California-Berkeley School of Law and has worked as a public defender and in Africa as a consultant to the government of Mozambique. He also has lived in India and done work in South America and Europe. From 1987-93, he was a national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. He is a co-founder of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council and serves on the boards of several national organizations. He has taught at a number of law schools besides Wayne Law, including Harvard and Columbia University.
“He shares his time liberally with civil groups, government agencies and advocacy organizations,” Hammer said. “He is a tireless advocate and educator. He uses humor, intelligence and passion to reach his audience.”
The Keith Center promotes civil rights educational opportunities and encourages research on racial justice issues, including housing segregation, inadequate and segregated education, and unequal economic opportunities, with a particular focus on southeastern Michigan. It also contributes to the development of the next generation of civil rights advocates by providing opportunities to work with leading civil rights organizations and providing scholarships to Wayne Law students interested in pursuing civil rights law.