What do you do in moments when race enters the room? That's just one of the topics that poet Claudia Rankine delved into during the annual Citizen University National Conference.
The conference brings together community leaders, artists and activists to discuss the art and practice of citizenship. The organization's motto is “Let’s Do Democracy!”
The gathering evolved out of the work of the Guiding Lights Network, founded by author and educator Eric Liu in 2005. The theme this year was Citizen Power Now. To that end, participants focused on best practices for problem solving in a climate of political polarization.
The closing plenary session featured Rankine and playwright Robert Schenkkan. Both read from their work and joined Eric Liu in conversation.
Rankine has published several poetry collections. Her latest, “Citizen: An American Lyric,” was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. Rankine is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and professor of English at Pomona College.
Schenkkan is an American playwright, screenwriter, and actor. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1992 for his work “The Kentucky Cycle.” His work “All the Way” earned the 2014 Tony Award for best play.
The Citizen University National Conference took place at Seattle Center on March 20-21, 2015. Sponsors included Seattle Center, The Seattle Foundation and KUOW 94.9. The opening music was performed by composer and visual artist Paul Rucker. Thanks to Anna Tatistcheff for our recording.