June 15, 2020
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In the midst of a semester marked by passionate discussions of race and representation, Kenyon welcomes one of America’s foremost writers on the topic of race in America. Jelani Cobb, a writer for the New Yorker and faculty member at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, will present an address titled “The Half-Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today” on Wednesday, April 18, at 8 p.m. in Rosse Hall. The next day, he will participate in a Common Hour conversation and Q&A with President Sean Decatur at 11:10 a.m. in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater.
“Jelani Cobb consistently takes a thoughtful approach to examining the nuances of racial identity and the role it plays in society, from police shootings to the movie ‘Black Panther.’ His work has become even more vital as our country grapples with increasing divisiveness,” Decatur said. “I have long admired his writing, and I’m thrilled to welcome him to Kenyon as we continue to consider the issue of race in America as well as our own goal of becoming a more inclusive campus community.”
At the Common Hour event, Cobb and Decatur will answer questions from the audience on topics including diversity, inclusion and free expression. Cobb’s Wednesday evening lecture will also be followed by an audience Q&A.
Cobb’s articles for the New Yorker include “The Anger in Ferguson,” Murders in Charleston” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Reparations.” His recent writing include an analysis of how the blockbuster film “Black Panther” depicts the African diaspora; in it, he examines how the term “African-American” represents “two feuding ancestries conjoined by a hyphen.” On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Cobb connected the unrest of 1968 to the social movements of 2018: “Among the most striking aspects of the #NeverAgain movement is its young members’ ability to see a common predicament despite their different backgrounds — to acknowledge what King called the ‘inescapable web of mutuality.’”
In 2015, Cobb received the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism for his New Yorker columns, in which he combines “the strengths of an on-the-scene reporter, a public intellectual, a teacher, a vivid writer, a subtle moralist and an accomplished professional historian.” Cobb also is the recipient of the 2017 Walter Bernstein Award from the Writers Guild of America for his investigative project “Policing the Police,” which aired on PBS’s “Frontline” in 2016.
His long-form works include three books — “Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress,” “To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic” and “The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays” — as well as a forthcoming book, “Antidote to Revolution: African American Anticommunism and the Struggle for Civil Rights, 1931.”