Crafting Democratic Futures Biannual Convening: Fall 2023 Event Recap

Welcoming remarks by University of Michigan President Santa Ono and introductory remarks from CSS Director Earl Lewis were followed by a series of presentations from Crafting Democratic Futures (CDF) teams. Teams summarized their work on local reparations projects, introduced community partners, and reflected on their experiences as the initial 5-year duration of the project draws to a close. Throughout the day, attendees heard from the following CDF teams: The University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University, Rutgers University – Newark, Emory University, Spelman College, Connecticut, Wesleyan (Macon, GA), Wofford (Spartanburg, SC), and Concordia University (Moorhead, MN).

Because of the localized nature of CDF teams, projects range in focus and scope. However, certain key takeaways transcended individual teams and spoke to the guiding principles of reparative justice work. These included thinking long-term and working “for generations you may never see.” Others emphasized the importance of interdisciplinarity in addition to intergenerational frameworks. Multiple teams cited community engagement as their most significant accomplishment, though this community engagement took various forms: relationship building, oral histories, and qualitative research as just some of the ways CDF teams incorporate community input into their projects. 

In addition to the CDF teams, further presentations at the convening included safety and security guidance from the U-M Information and Technology Services team, reflections and expertise from Viriginie Ladisch of the International Center for Transitional Justice, and remarks from Darryl Ford Williams, executive producer of the documentary The Cost of Inheritance: An America ReFramed Special. The documentary, which centers on the history and ongoing work of reparations in the U.S., is a co-production of WQED, the Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan and presented in partnership with WORLD and American Documentary.

The event concluded with a screening of The Cost of Inheritance, followed by commentary from executive producer Darryl Ford Williams in conversation with Earl Lewis. The documentary will air on PBS January 8, 2024 at 10 P.M. EST.