I mentioned earlier that I was working on the Beyond Jena forum, which is rapidly approaching on the last day of this month. We’re still working on some loose ends, but the event is coming together and I have every reason to believe it will be a success. I’m excited about this because it brings together several areas of interest to me personally.
The idea for this event came out of two panels in 2007: one that I was on and one that I organized. In a sense this event combines those two. That first panel was sponsored by Communications, which led me to get talking with Dr. Kimberly Chandler, one of the newer faculty in that department. Together we came up with the idea for the Beyond Jena forum.
Here’s the rationale. The 2007 demonstrations in Jena were “a civil rights protest literally conjured out of the ether of cyberspace, of a type that has never happened before in America” [Chicago Tribune]. In fact, the story of how those protests were organized became a story in and of itself. We thought it would be interesting and valuable to discuss the rise of the blogosphere, in particular bloggers of color, as well as other independent media. How is this playing out in New Orleans today? How can we merge new technologies, pedagogy and grassroots media here at this University, to further our mission? So it’s not really about the Jena Six per se; that’s just our jumping-off point to talk about a host of connected issues.
We’re aiming for a bigger event than I have ever organized before. My job usually entails programming that’s directed to our faculty only, which is a fairly small group — just a couple hundred, I think. If we get thirty people to turn out for something it’s a screaming success. This event is not just for faculty, but also for staff and students and the public at large. Come one, come all! We are providing a continental breakfast and a lunch. We got eight different departments (plus Rising Tide) to sponsor the event. It’s free but registration is required. There are a lot of logistics to juggle.
We’ve got a great bunch of participants lined up. I’m very excited about the panel I’ll be moderating, “The Rise of Blogging and Grassroots Media as Tools for Social Justice in New Orleans and Beyond.” I think it will be a stimulating discussion.
My only worry at this point is attendance. We are getting the word out as best we can. The University’s media apparatus has been deployed. Flyers are in the works. I even created my first Facebook ad. So far the registrations have been trickling in. The next ten days are crucial.
For more details on the event, or to register, visit BeyondJena.com, and please send that link to anyone you think might be interested.