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CHESS Speaker Series

  •  Spring 2021 Speaker Series presented by the college of humanities, education and social sciences: Racial Injustice: Be the Change

    Gannon University's College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences prepares students to positively impact the world around them by engaging them in opportunities for meaningful knowledge-building, critical and innovative thinking, and exploring some of today's complex global challenges through an array of educational programming experiences.

    A hallmark of the College's work in carrying out this mission is its annual CHESS Speaker Series, which engages both Gannon and broader Erie community members in important and timely conversations that impact our neighbors across the world.

    This year's series, titled "Racial Justice: Be the Change," was chosen in response to increasing attention on widespread protests and advocacy this year. During this event series, national and local speakers offered valuable insights and engaged our communities in dialogue and advocacy around issues of racial justice. This year-long examination of the issues and their possible solutions can inspire us to work to be the change we need to see.

    We invite you to become a part of the conversation and have listed our Spring 2021 CHESS Speaker Series events below.

    Where do we Go From Here? Howard Thurman, MLK and the Beloved Community Today

    Tuesday, February 23 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Howard Thurman

    Prominent Interpreter of both Howard Thurman and Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, author, pastor and theologian Dr. C. Anthony Hunt will present the promise of Dr. King’s “Beloved Community” in light of the perils of covid-19 and structural racism. A panel of Erie respondents will be moderated by Rev. Dr. Charles Mock, pastor of Community Missionary Baptist Church and past president of Inter-Church Ministries of Erie County, a sponsoring partner in this presentation.

    View Presentation

    Sponsored by the Inter-Church ministries of Erie County, Gannon Philosophy Department and the College of Humanities, Education and Social Science

    Ain’t I a Woman!

    Thursday, Feb. 25 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Shinnerrie Jackson

    Multi-talented actress Shinnerrie Jackson, a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, heads this one-woman theatrical performance where she plays historical figures Fanny Lou Hammer, Clementine Hunter, Sojourner Truth and Zora Neal Hurston. Jackson has headlined this show in performances all across the country.

    Faculty, Staff and Students:

    Alumni, Family and Friends:


    Sponsored in part by Gannon University’s Alex Clemente Fund for the Performing and Related Arts

    A Conversation with Samantha Fuentes: Uplifting the Voices of the Silenced

    Tuesday, March 2 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Samantha Fuentes

    On Feb. 14, 2018 a gunman wielding an AR15 entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and fired on students, faculty and staff. Seventeen people lost their lives, and many others were wounded. Samantha Fuentes was among the injured in the Parkland tragedy. While fortunate to be alive, she is still battling the physical and mental ramifications of that day. Despite these tragic events, Fuentes is committed to delivering a poignant message in today’s conversation: to make sure that no child or adult is devastated by senseless and preventable gun violence ever again.

    Faculty, Staff and Student Registration:

    Alumni, Family and Friends Registration:

    Sponsored by Aetna and the Crime Victims Center

    Madam Vice President: How the Election of Kamala Harris Changes – and Doesn’t Change  – the State of Race in America

    Wednesday, March 10 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Daniella Gibbs Leger

    Daniella Gibbs Léger, executive vice president for Communications and Strategy at American Progress, will analyze the implications of the election of Vice President Kamala Harris. Léger has written for Essence ,, and Huffington Post and has served as a special assistant to the president and director of message events in the Obama administration.

    Dr. Uche Blackstock

    Uche Blackstock

    Wednesday, March 24 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    This discussion features emergency physician and founder of Advancing Health Equity Uche Blackstock, Ph.D. Blackstock is committed to advancing equity in health care and addressing specific racial inequalities within the health care system. Her work has been featured on a national scale in publications and in the media.

    Co-sponsored by the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences

    44th Gannon Writing Awards Program: Featuring Distinguished Poet Sherwin Bitsui

    Friday, April 16 | 7:30 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Sherwin Bitsui

    Sherwin Bitsui is the author of three books of poetry and the winner of the 2010 PEN Open Book Award, an American Book Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. He has been published in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. “...The only way to read Bitsui is to trust his poetic momentum and embrace his brilliant work.”— Booklist


    Fall Lecture Series Events

    From 1619 Virginia to 16503 Erie: The Constitutional Path to Black Lives Matter

    Tuesday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Longtime Gannon faculty member Parris Baker, Ph.D., examines how racism was ingrained in the founding of the United States and the historical events that have led to the current Black Lives Matter movement. The focus on making reflective and reflexive change and the desire to re-evaluate processes at the micro and macro level are two areas Baker believes can result in significant change.

    Co-sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns. 

    View Event Recording

    Post Globalization: The Struggle for a Post-Pandemic Future

    Wednesday, Sept. 9, 10:10 - 11:05 a.m., Zoom Livestream

    Renowned professor Walden Bello of the State University of New York at Binghamton will speak on the COVID-19 pandemic, why 'connectivity' is a second stage of globalization, and how it has facilitated the spread of the novel coronavirus. Bello will go on to discuss three post-pandemic scenarios and why exclusionary forces have the political advantage.

    View Event Recording

    Congress on Campus: Racial Justice Conversation

    Monday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Join Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Congressman Charles Boustany (R-LA) in a wide-ranging discussion about "Racial Justice." These long serving former members of Congress will offer context and wisdom on this most important issue. Sponsored by the School of Public Service & Global Affairs, the duo are speaking to Gannon as part of the Congress to Campus program. The mission of Congress to Campus is to engage students to increase civic literacy and participation by directly connecting them with former members of Congress in the hopes of strengthening their participation in the democratic process.

    View Event Recording

    Defund, Disarm, Dismantle: Examining the Movement Against Police Violence

    Friday, Sept. 25, 11:15 a.m. - 12:10 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Dr. Judah Schept, Associate Professor at Eastern Kentucky University, will examine the uprisings against police violence in every state, sparked by the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Drawing from more than a decade of research into the re-formation and expansion of, as well as opposition to, the carceral state in both the Midwest and Appalachia, his talk examines and contextualizes the call to defund the police and offers some insights into the broader politics of abolition.

    View Event Recording

    From Slavery to Police Brutality: The History of United States Racist Policing

    Thursday, Oct. 8, 3 - 4 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Dr. Jason Williams, an Assistant Professor at Montclair State University, will present US Policing as Racialized Social Control: Canvassing Baltimore and Ferguson. His talk will intersectionalize our understanding of policing and recommend the need for a more historical and complicated approach toward policing practice and understanding. Dr. Viviane Saleh Hanna, Professor and Chairperson of Crime and Justice Studies at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, will examine police and vigilante white supremacist violence using her research on black feminist hauntology and abolitionist theory of crime.

    View Event Recording

    Champions of Justice

    Wednesday, Oct. 28, 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Social Work and Criminal Justice students will present their character synopsis of diverse individuals, including but not limited to, Victoria Earle Matthews, Carrie Steele, and Mohammed Ali, who have made often unrecognized or under-appreciated contributions to creating a more just and equitable society.

    43RD Annual Gannon Writing Awards featuring Distinguished Poet Allison Joseph

    Friday, Oct. 9, 6:30 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    View Event Recording

    Walking with Pope Francis: Encouraging Dialogue and Friendship at Gannon

    Tuesday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Join three Gannon leaders for a discussion of justice, diversity, and inclusion at Gannon, in the context of Catholic Social Teaching from Fratelli Tutti.  Gannon faculty, staff, students, and alumni are invited to participate in the conversation.

    The Annual St. Albert the Great lecture sponsored by the Philosophy Department invites colleagues to present their current research in the spirit of interdisciplinary learning and exploration in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.


    Dr. Lori Lindley, Dean of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

    Rebecca Perry, Director of the Center for Social Concerns (Co-chairs of Gannon's Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion Steering Committee)

    Dr. Eric Dart, Chair of the Theology Department and the Liberal Studies Task Force

    View Event Recording

    Building an Equitable Community: A Discussion on Inclusive Programming in the Arts

    Thursday, Oct 29, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    As part of an initiative with Erie Arts & Culture promoting an equitable community, this virtual roundtable event offers a space for open discussion on inclusive programming and diversity in the arts. This discussion will be moderated by William Steadman (Concert Band Director, Gannon University) and features a panel from the artistic community throughout the city of Erie and the broader region:

    Robert Deemer, Professor of Music Composition, State University of New York @ Fredonia; Director, Institute for Composer Diversity

    Patrick Fisher, Executive Director, Erie Arts & Culture

    Kate Neubert-Lechner, Executive Director, Erie Playhouse

    Ceasar Westbrook, Freelance/Teaching Artist; Art Teacher, Erie School District

    Bill Williams, Immediate Past President, Erie Playhouse; Vice President, Martin Luther King Center

    View Event Recording

    The 2020 Election: Where are we? Where are we headed?

    Thursday, Nov 5, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    The Jefferson Educational Society and Gannon's School of Public Service & Global Affairs are teaming up for a moderated discussion about the 2020 election, its results, and the path forward. Ben Speggen will moderate a discussion featuring experts on the recent history of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Plus, a diverse range of students will offer their experiences and observations.

    View Event Recording