Recordings of Sunday Platform addresses
Jason Purnell is Associate Professor at the Brown School of Washington University. His research focuses on how socioeconomic and sociocultural factors influence health behaviors and health outcomes and on mobilizing community action to address the social determinants of health. He currently leads Health Equity Works, the new name and expanded mission of the Brown School initiative previously referred to as For the Sake of All, which the Ethical Society learned about in a two-part Forum last month.
We all need support sometimes. Life doesn’t always go to plan, and when things fall apart, we need people we can turn to for help. But it can be difficult to ask for help: we fear the vulnerability of admitting we need support, or we may not have anyone in our lives we can trust with our weakness. How can we get better at asking for support when we need it, and how can we build a community that supports each other through life?
In 1994 Bob Hansman began City Faces for children in Clinton-Peabody Public Housing, then something of a hotbed of Bloods (and Crips) activity. In 1996 he opened a studio there, which has by now been populated by two generations of kids in the projects as well as hundreds of Washington University volunteers. In 2002 he adopted his son Jovan; the two of them have been the subject of national television and magazine coverage and the recipients of numerous awards. In 2017 Bob and Jovan illustrated a book of poems about immigration—Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea, which has won recognition from the National Associations of Teachers of English and Social Studies.
Bob Hansman is a child of the sixties. He got to meet Coretta Scott King and Julian Bond, and was sitting just yards from Bobby Kennedy when he announced his run for the presidency. He also got beat up (and his lawyer’s office got pipe-bombed) by the Ku Klux Klan. Years later he began teaching at both Washington University and the Clinton-Peabody housing projects. Those two threads have been weaving in and out ever since. In 2017 he published a book about Pruitt-Igoe. Locally, Bob has received a Rosa Parks Award and a Dred Scott Freedom Award from Dred and Harriet Scott’s great-great-granddaughter.
For millennia, the idea that human beings have a supernatural “soul”—a spirit inside us which is more than simply matter—has played a central role in religious and spiritual traditions. But even if, like many Humanists, you do not believe that you have a literal “soul,” you might still use the word in a metaphorical sense, or talk about “soul music” or “soul food.” What do these words mean, then, and what might an Ethical Humanist understanding of “soul” look like? How can we feed our Ethical Humanist “souls”?
Come hear and see what’s going on with the Uganda Humanist Schools and how the Ethical Society is helping Ugandan humanists transform young lives and lift up an entire community.
View the slides from this platform (pdf)
Identifying with and being a part of a community is a quintessential human endeavor. However, exclusion is a common challenge to community-building. This talk focuses on teasing out ways to create communities that genuinely strive to include everyone.
Sincere Kirabo is a DC-area-based cultural critic and social change instigator; his work focuses on cultivating Black humanist culture, building healthy Black masculinity, and struggling to create a world that honors the “radical” idea of free Black people. Sincere has a background in social science, and his social critiques have been featured in media outlets including The Humanist, Black Youth Project, and Everyday Feminism. Sincere served as social justice coordinator with the American Humanist Association, connecting humanist philosophy with inclusive practices and outreach. He is active in LGBTQ issues and secular social justice.
Philosophers, politicians, and talking heads everywhere are decrying an apparent breakdown of civility in our public discourse. Rising partisanship, extremism, and an increasingly contentious social media environment are combining to fracture our political community and make our public discussions cruel and fruitless. But what does it mean to be “civil”, really, and is it as high a value as many believe? In this Platform we’ll explore what “civility” means, and how it can cultivate—or stifle—community.
An individual’s community used to be largely determined by circumstance—the extended family and town in which they grew up, the traditions of family and background. “Community” was mostly a given, and often something to escape from in search of freedom and new experiences. Today, community is often something that people are seeking, as families shrink, people move more often, traditions continue to lose power, and individuality reigns supreme. What does it mean to cultivate voluntary community? What do we owe family or tradition? What do we owe relative strangers? What do we owe ourselves? What does choosing community require of us, and what does it give us in return?
Culture and politics today are riven with debates about social justice. Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement are social justice campaigns which have become international phenomena. At the heart of these movements are so-called “social justice warriors”: people who take to the streets (and their keyboards and phones) to promote their vision of social justice. But what does it mean to be a social justice warrior, and should we become one?
The epidemic of gun violence is of deep concern to most Americans. Yet it often seems as if we’re stuck in a cycle of tragedy, “thoughts and prayers, and political stalemate. What progress has been made and how might we achieve more?
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