International Festival of Arts & Ideas Announces DEMOCRACY: WE THE PEOPLE

By: May. 06, 2020
International Festival of Arts & Ideas Announces DEMOCRACY: WE THE PEOPLE

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas announces that its virtual Ideas programming will begin on Tuesday, May 12, and continue through Friday, June 26.

Entitled Democracy: We the People, the interactive events and conversations bring together vital thinkers and doers to address and engage with national and international issues through the microcosm of the culturally rich, diverse, and complex communities of New Haven.

Confirmed participants include 2012 Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco, award-winning scholar Dr. Khalilah L. Brown-Dean, NEA Big Read Author Stephanie Burt, renowned writer Anand Giridharadas, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, recipient of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary for her landmark "The 1619 Project" published by The New York Times.

Last winter, the International Festival held a series of public forums around the concept of democracy to help form and shape this year's Ideas programming, which has evolved in response to the current moment. A 2016 study conducted by ABC News's FiveThirtyEight found that the New Haven metropolitan area is most similar to U.S. demographics overall, based on age, educational attainment, race, and ethnicity.

"The United States was founded on both freedom and slavery, human rights and genocide. Our country is still coping with the contradictions of its founding, while grappling with very real and intractable issues in the present," said Festival Co-Directors Liz Fisher and Tom Griggs. "We believe that connection is more important than ever as we experience this unprecedented situation together. The Festival's Ideas programming invites our New Haven community to consider some of the most important questions facing our nation: How do we celebrate our shared humanity, even with those with whom we vehemently disagree? How do we engage with the promise of democracy and the American Dream? Who does it serve and who is left out? How can we pursue a just, joyful, and liberated society?"

Each year, the New Haven Free Public Library curates a collection of books, movies, music, and other media that reflect the diversity of Arts & Ideas programming--and this year is no different. The NHFPL Micro Branch will feature all-digital selections available to check out with a library card, including ebooks, audiobooks, adult and children's picks, and titles relating to this year's NEA Big Read, Advice from the Lights by Stephanie Burt.

The Ideas Program is presented in partnership with Connecticut Humanities, a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional leadership support of The Whitney Center and media sponsor CT Public.

Details about additional programming for the 2020 International Festival of Arts & Ideas will be announced in the coming weeks.

All 2020 International Festival of Arts & Ideas programming is presented free of charge. Live-streamed content will be available at, and Workshop content will require Zoom registration; info and links will be posted on our website as available.


Tuesday, May 12, 7PM

Songwriting as Radical Imagination; An Activist Songbook Discussion.
Joined by Activist Songbook Composer Byron Au Yong and Lyricist Aaron Jafferis, a panel of artists/activists will discuss music and its role in activism and democracy. Joined by a panel of local New Haven activists and nationally recognized organizers including Kit Yan & Melissa Li, co-creators of Interstate, we will learn how music can be a tool to effect change at every level of our democracy. How does music change people, history, and reality? What draws you to songs that name and fight oppression, versus songs that claim liberation and create the new world we're stepping into, versus both? How do you see music effecting political change within this election year, and how can it be a voice of democracy at large?

Additional support for the Activist Songbook Panel Discussion is provided by the New England States Touring Program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.

Wednesday, May 13, 7PM

Stephanie Burt in Conversation
Kick-off the annual NEA Big Read with poet Stephanie Burt in conversation about her book Advice From The Lights (Graywolf Press, 2017). Stephanie Burt is a poet, literary critic, and professor hailed by The New York Times as "one of the most influential poetry critics of [her] generation." Her other collections of poems include Belmont, Parallel Play, and Popular Music.

Additional support for Stephanie Burt in Conversation was provided through the NEA Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, presented locally in partnership with the New Haven Free Public Library and New Haven Pride Center.

Tuesday, May 19, 7PM

Wealth in Our Democracy: Anand Giridharadas in Conversation
A conversation about income inequality in the U.S. with Anand Giridharadas, author of the recently published Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (Alfred A. Knopf, 2018). In his book, Giridharadas asks hard questions: Why, for example, should our gravest problems be solved by the unelected upper crust instead of the public institutions it erodes by lobbying and dodging taxes? He also points toward an answer: Rather than rely on scraps from the winners, we must take on the grueling democratic work of building more robust, egalitarian institutions and truly changing the world. Giridharadas is an editor-at-large for Time, an on-air political analyst for MSNBC, and a visiting scholar at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism at NYU. His others books include The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, and India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking.

Tuesday, May 26, 7PM

Cultivating Hope: The Role of Artists in Democracy
The 2012 Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco is joined by Lakota playwright Larissa Fasthorse, and Founder of Theatre of the Oppressed NYC and New Haven native Katy Rubin who reflect on their roles as mediators and responders during times of great social challenge.

Thursday, June 4, 7PM

Democracy, Pandemic, and How We Move Forward
Former Connecticut Secretary of State Miles Rapoport moderates a conversation with political commentator and author Heather McGhee, political activist and CEO of Voto Latino María Teresa Kumar, and political scholar Archon Fung, all of whom have spent their lives working to strengthen our democracy. Together they will explore the question: Where do we go from here?

Friday, June 5, 5PM

Democracy, Refugees, and Asylum
In Partnership with IRIS-Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services
Historian Quan Tran and sociologist Jasmina Besirevic-Regan share their personal stories and professional perspectives on borders, migration, and democracy. Bring your questions and curiosities to this interactive event with our partners at IRIS.

Tuesday, June 9, 7PM

Stories, Sovereignty, and Imagining Forward
A conversation with Native American artists and leaders who offer their perspective on issues of sovereignty, ancestry, and post-pandemic survival, organized in partnership with theater director Madeline Sayet. A member of the Mohegan Nation, Sayet is the Executive Director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. She has been honored as a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment, TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Fellow, National Directing Fellow, Drama League Director-In-Residence, and a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama.

Thursday, June 11, 7PM

Housing as a Human Right? Tackling Challenges of Affordability and Discrimination
In partnership with The CT Mirror
Explore the intersection of housing and democracy with Connecticut policy experts, including Karen DuBois Walton(Executive Director of the Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven), Jacqueline Rabe Thomas (Reporter for The CT Mirror), and Alexis Highsmith Smith (Executive Director of New Haven Legal Aid).

Tuesday, June 16, 7PM

Who is Essential? Race, Culture, and Identity in American Democracy
In partnership with The CT Mirror
John Dankosky invites Khalilah Brown-Dean, Political Science Professor at Quinnipiac University, and others to reflect on identity politics at this disorienting time when a new identity has emerged in our society: "essential." What has changed in the current conversation about identity? What's stayed the same, and what are the implications for the struggle for power in 2020?

Thursday, June 18, 7PM

Voter Rights Workshop
In Partnership with Civic Impact Lab, Mothers & Others for Justice, The Urban League of Southern Connecticut
This workshop will give participants an opportunity to learn how structural racism shapes our voting system, imagine how a just and equitable alternative should work, and discuss how we as individuals and institutions can create a voting system rooted in shared liberation.
Registration required.

Friday, June 19, 7PM

Slavery & The American Story
In Partnership with The Narrative Project
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and creator of the landmark 1619 Project for The New York Times Magazine Nikole Hannah-Jones in conversation with the host of The Center For Investigative Reporting's Revealpodcast, Al Letson, and New Haven local columnist, communications specialist and founder of The Narrative Project, Mercy Quaye. The journalists will discuss the local, national, and global impact of American slavery and liberation on democracy in America and our relationship with truth and history. This talk will include a special performance by New Haven musician Paul Bryant Hudson.

Friday, June 26, 7PM

On Being Good: A Conversation with The Good Place Philosophers
Philosophers Pamela Hieronymi and Todd May, who served as philosophy advisors on the acclaimed television comedy, The Good Place (NBC), explore the nature of goodness and its role in society, an especially poignant and visceral subject against the backdrop of the current public health crisis.

Constitution Cafe Series

Join your neighbors and local experts in a series of community dialogues around daily issues that intersect with Theour Constitution. Bring your ideas, questions, and curiosity and join in this online iteration of artist Linda Pollack's project, My Daily Constitution, which creates rigorous constitutional discussions outside of the lecture hall and places them into public life. Stay tuned for the announcement for speakers at each event.
Registration required.

Wednesday, June 3, 5PM

Constitution Cafe: The Role of Government During Pandemic

Wednesday, June 10, 5PM

Constitution Cafe: The Future of Governing and Public Assembly

Wednesday, June 17, 5PM

Constitution Cafe: Federal Vs. States Rights

Wednesday, June 24, 5PM

Constitution Cafe: Constitution & Mass Incarceration
In Partnership with ACLU Connecticut. Co-hosted with Babz Rawls Ivey, radio personality and Editor-in-chief of Inner City News

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