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SUNY Plattsburgh's 8th Annual Peace and Justice Conference to Focus on Identity, Art, Social Justice

“Instruments of Peace,” SUNY Plattsburgh’s annual Peace and Justice Conference, will take place Monday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will culminate with a 7 p.m. performance. All events will take place in the Warren Ballrooms, Angell College Center.

This year’s conference focuses on the theme “Identity, Art and Social Justice.” It will open with excerpts from “I Am an American,” a new documentary film, which will be immediately followed by a plenary session on “Women, War and Peace.” The session will feature Peggy Luhr, who was part of the feminist peace community Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in 1980; Dr. Genie Babb, an associate professor in SUNY Plattsburgh’s English department who teaches a course on women and war this semester; and Dr. Simona Sharoni, chair of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department, who has studied the gendered dimensions of political conflicts for several decades.

The second plenary session will focus on the use of art as a tool of resistance and social change. Participants in this session include SUNY Plattsburgh faculty members Drs. Karen Becker (Music), Shawna Mefferd Carroll (Theater) and Elizabeth Cohen (English). They will be joined by a member of the Rota Gallery Collective at 19 Clinton St. in Plattsburgh.

“What makes this year’s conference unique is our decision to feature two powerful young women of color who call themselves Climbing PoeTree and use spoken word to raise awareness about and mobilize support for social justice and social change,” Sharoni said.

The Brooklyn-based artists will facilitate an interactive workshop titled “S.T.I.C.H.E.D.: Creating Our Futures by Re-writing Our Histories” from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The presenters will use multimedia to inspire and create a word bank, trigger memory through multi-sensory exercises and help participants to develop writing that is both political and personal.

The conference will culminate in a performance by Climbing PoeTree titled, “Hurricane Season: An Era of Unnatural Disasters and a Great Shift in Universal Consciousness.” This multimedia performance will explore the current state of devastation and opportunity experienced all over the globe through spoken word, multimedia theater, sound collage and storytelling.

The idea to hold such an event was the brainchild of Dr. Marylin Nelson, who starting organizing it in 2003 while teaching in the division of Education, Health, and Human Services at the college. For the last four years the Gender and Women’s Studies Department has co-sponsored the event.

 “The idea for the conference came after the events of Sept. 11th, which to me, made it clearer than ever that we must expand our efforts to educate people about peace and social justice,” said Nelson who is now a professor emeritus. “The conference has grown every year, reaching several hundred participants in the past two years.”

”We decided to co-sponsor this conference because struggles for gender equality and justice have always been intertwined with struggles for peace and social justice,” Sharoni added. “The conference is an opportunity for us to highlight this relationship.”

Sharoni also noted that she is very excited about the focus on the relationship between identity, art and social justice.

“The theme of this year’s conference is designed to ignite hope and inspire people to join struggles for justice and peace,” she said. “Art is a powerful tool that underscores the fact that peace and social justice are not merely the absence of war or violence. Artists help us imagine a more just and peaceful world, a world without of sexism, racism and other forms of oppression and inequality.”

The conference is free and open to the public. For more information contact Sharoni at 518-564-3026.

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