University of Massachusetts Amherst
October 12, 2017
The UMass Amherst chapter of Historians for Peace and Democracy, in conjunction with the UMass History department and over two dozen co-sponsors, hosted an interactive roundtable event on October 12th as part of H-PAD’s nationwide event series. The first part of the event featured a short historical introduction to current “threats to democracy and dangers of war” by historian Christian Appy, who focused on what Martin Luther King, Jr., identified as the “giant triplets” of racism, economic exploitation, and militaristic foreign policy.
Appy then facilitated a discussion among three panelists: Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, Iranian-American activist Mojgan Haji, and activist educator Amer Ahmed. Each panelist gave a brief response to each of three separate questions: What do you see as the greatest threats to democracy and dangers of war facing the US and the world today? How can knowledge of the past help us understand the present situation? And how can knowledge of the past inform strategies for resisting war and attacks on democracy? Many audience members said they appreciated how the panel brought historians and activists into dialogue with one another.
During the second hour of the event, the audience divided into small breakout groups and discussed their own answers to these questions. Each group then reported back to the larger audience, and their answers were entered on a Powerpoint slide that everyone could see. At the end of the event, representatives of community organizations were invited to give brief descriptions of their work so that attendees could connect with local organizing efforts.
Thursday October 12, 6:30pm, Bernie Dallas Room, Goodell Hall, UMass Amherst, Free and Open to the Public
Kevin Young: INTRODUCE EVENT and CHRIS APPY (5 minutes)
- Introduce self, HPAD, and Appy
- Format and agenda: FORMAT: non-traditional interactive discussion; de-centering and diversifying notions of expertise and intellectual authority; collectively discuss how understandings of the past can inform strategies for resisting war and attacks on democracy; FORMAT: 50 min. of roundtable discussion; 10 min. of establishing communication “norms”; 30 min. of break-out groups and large group discussion; 10 min roundtable; 10 min. of community group shout-outs; 10 min closing (you probably don’t need to be this specific about the time allotments—just included them here for reference)
ROUNDTABLE (50 min): Chris, Medea, Mojgan, and Amer [panelists are encouraged to engage with each others’ comments]
- Chris (10 min): Quick history of how we got to the present moment and introduction of panelists
- Question 1 (2 min each for Medea, Mojgan, and Amer): What do you see as the greatest threats to democracy and dangers of war facing the US and the world today?
- Question 2 (5 min each): How can knowledge of the past help us understand the present situation?
- Question 3 (5 min each): How can knowledge of the past inform strategies for resisting war and attacks on democracy?
- [at the end of Mojgan’s response to Question 3, Kevin will play a 2 minute video clip of Iranian-American stand-up comedian Maz Jobrani (start at 3:00 minutes): https://youtu.be/QxV0qgBmTW8 ]
2 minutes of wiggle room
LARGE GROUP FORMATION OF “NORMS” for group discussion: Amer (10 min) [Dan or Jess writes norms on PowerPoint slide]
BREAK-OUT GROUPS (30 min; Dan will explain format and facilitate)
- 4 minutes (or less) to explain and move chairs
- Question 1 (8 min discussion; Kevin put on PowerPoint slide): What are your thoughts on the roundtable panelists’ comments? What concerns do you have about present threats to democracy and dangers of war?
- Question 2? (8 min discussion): Based on what the panelists and others have said so far, and based on your own understanding of the past and present, what strategies can we use to resist war and attacks on democracy?
- Large group report-back (8-10 min; Dan facilitates; Kevin writes on PowerPoint; leave 2 minutes for turning chairs and so panelists can return to front)
ROUNDTABLE II: (10 min)
- Panelists return to front of room to discuss Question 2 based on break-out group discussions (2.5 min each, Chris, Mojgan, Amer, Medea)
COMMUNITY GROUP SHOUT OUTS (5 min; facilitated by Dan and Sigrid [time-keeper])
- Each group in attendance may have one representative introduce themselves and say what people should know about their group in 30 seconds or less
ROUNDTABLE III: Closing comments (10 min)
- Question 1: Based on this discussion: what comments or reflectons would you like to leave us with? (2 min each: Amer, Medea, Mojgan, Chris)
- Question 2: Each panelist share one final word to leave us with.