Tanner Lectures flyer

Rutgers-Newark to Host Its First Tanner Lectures on Human Values

Isabel Wilkerson book coverRutgers University–Newark will host the Tanner Lectures on Human Values Festival, April 22-27, at various venues on campus and in the city of Newark. Themed “Flowing: Human Migrations and Human Values,” the festival will celebrate, through art and ideas, Rutgers-Newark’s diverse community of students, faculty, and staff whose abundance of migration stories mitigates tribal borders and extols difference. Established in 1978 by American scholar, industrialist, and philanthropist, Obert Clark Tanner, the Tanner Lectures on Human Values is a multiversity lecture series in the humanities that encompasses the entire range of ideals pertinent to the human condition. The lectureships are international and intercultural and transcend ethnic, national, religious, and ideological distinctions. In creating the lectureships, Tanner said, "I hope these lectures will contribute to the intellectual and moral life of mankind. I see them simply as a search for a better understanding of human behavior and human values. This understanding may be pursued for its own intrinsic worth, but it may also eventually have practical consequences for the quality of personal and social life." “As a grandchild of the Great Migration and daughter of a Trinidadian immigrant, I grew up at the borders of cultures, identities, and geographies,” says Salamishah Tillet, who is the Henry Rutgers Professor of African American Studies and Creative Writing and co-chair of the Tanner Lectures Festival. “I believe there are few cities and even fewer campuses that celebrate the power of migrant stories with the ease and enthusiasm that we do here at Rutgers University-Newark. Being able to share narratives and histories so integral to our nation at the Tanner Lectures on Human Values is a great honor and gift to us all.” Consistent with Tanner’s vision, “Flowing: Human Migrations and Human Values” will focus on the human drama of migrations within and to the United States, both historical and contemporary, conveyed through the prism of music, visual arts, and public discourse. The first day, Monday, April 22, will excite the visual and auditory senses with five unique exhibitions at Express Newark.


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  • “We Played Dances: A Portrait of Louis Armstrong” is a photo exhibition on jazz as a migratory music that features the work of Nick Kline and is curated by Shine Portrait Studio and the Institute of Jazz Studies. It will be displayed through mid-May 2019.
  • “Krueger-Scott Oral History Jukebox” is an interactive art installation by New Arts Justice that plays music reflective of Newark’s migrant culture. It also will be displayed through mid-May 2019.
  • The music video “For My Immigrants” written by Rutgers-Newark undergraduate, Alexis Torres Machado, and produced by Newest Americans is an anthem for Dreamers who believe they “can move any mountain/any wall can be broken.” It will be featured through April 28, 2019.
  • We Came and Stayed is a Newest Americans short documentary about the migration of Coyt Jones (father of poet, activist, Amiri Baraka, and grandfather of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka), who traveled to Newark from South Carolina in 1927. The film, which will be shown through April 28, 2019, explores how the Great Migration transformed a family and a city.
  • “Glassbook Project: Provisions” is a short documentary about the multi-series installation that consisted of an audiovisual essay about the process of creating books made of glass. Curated from the work of Kline, Adrienne Wheeler, Samantha J. Boardman, Endless Editions, and GlassRoots, along with audio from Krueger-Scott narrators, the collection explores the effects of the seismic change the Great Migration brought to individuals, their families, the city of Newark, and the country at large. The exhibit will be displayed through April 28, 2019.

Wednesday, April 24, will feature an afternoon student panel discussion, “Student Voices, Migrant Stories,” moderated by Marta Elena Esquilin, associate dean of the Honors Living-Learning Community, at 2:40 p.m. at Express Newark. Later that afternoon, the Rutgers-Newark community and guests will participate in a public conversation, “The South is Everywhere: The African-American Migration Narrative,” between Columbia University professor Farah Jasmine Griffin and novelist Ayana Mathis, moderated by Tillet, who also serves as associate director of RU-N's Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience. The discussion will be held at Express Newark at 5:20 p.m. Griffin and Mathis will be available afterward to sign their respective books, “Who Set You Flowin’?”: The African-American Migration Narrative (Oxford University Press, 1996) and The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Vintage, reprint edition 2013) at Rutgers-Newark Barnes & Noble.

Isabel Wilkerson
Isabel Wilkerson, photo by Joe Henson

Thursday, April 25, the Alexis Morrast Trio will enliven the afternoon with a jazz reception at Clement’s Place at 4 p.m. Thereafter, attendees will traverse to the Great Hall at 15 Washington Street where pioneering and celebrated journalist Isabel Wilkerson, author ofThe Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration(Vintage, reprint edition 2011), will deliver the keynote Tanner Lectures on Human Values entitled, “The Power of a Single Decision.” The evening will culminate with a book-signing by Wilkerson at Rutgers-Newark Barnes & Noble and more music by the Alexis Morrast Trio at Clement’s Place.

On Saturday, April 27, the “I Stood at the Border, Im/migrant Voices and Stories Retold” capstone projects of Rutgers-Newark bachelor of fine arts students will be on exhibition at 2 Gateway Center in Newark at 5 p.m. The capstone projects are examinations of the profound and lasting effects migration has on identity from various perspectives (cultural, generational, religious, geographical, racial, linguistic, etc.) as seen through the lens of communications design.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Natalia Ikheloa at 973-353-2760 or ni57@rutgers.edu